U.S./China: U.S. - China retaliations threaten press freedom

Ongoing retaliations between the U.S. and Chinese government prevent journalists from working and threaten to critically impede the flow of information during the coronavirus outbreak. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) objects to the use of visa policies as weapons against journalists and calls on China and the U.S. to end reactive punitive measures.

In this file photo taken on January 18, 2020 Chinese and US national flags flutter at the entrance of a company office building in Beijing. Credit: Wang Zhao/AFP

According to a report by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC), 22% of the journalists interviewed reported difficulties renewing their press credentials and at least 12 correspondents received only short term visas, valid for six months or less. The FCCC fears that China is preparing to expel more journalists in the near future. Furthermore, in February 2020, three Wall Street Journal reporters were expelled from China for an opinion piece they did not contribute to. On March 2, the U.S. State Department retaliated by announcing a personnel cap on five Chinese state-controlled media entities, based on their designation as government entities as of February 2020, which effectively limits the number of Chinese citizens permitted to work for these organisations in the U.S.

The IFJ said: “These retaliatory moves by the U.S. and China limit the flow of information and suppress press freedom. Now, more than ever, in face of a public health crisis, it is essential that journalists are able to report freely and ensure accurate information is available to all. Government policy should not dictate who can and cannot report. The IFJ condemns the use of journalists as political pawns and implores governments to take other avenues to express their opinions.”

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The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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