BEIJING (CHINA): For the third year in a row, no journalists the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC) that working conditions had improved, the FCCC said in an annual report based on 150 responses to a survey of correspondents and interviews with bureau chiefs.
In 2020 China had used COVID prevention measures, intimidation and visa curbs to limit foreign reporting, this ushered in a ‘rapid decline in media freedom,’ FCCC said on Monday.
“All arms of state power – including surveillance systems introduced to curb coronavirus – were used to harass and intimidate journalists, their Chinese colleagues, and those whom the foreign press sought to interview,” it said.
Authorities often cited public health concerns to deny reporters access to sensitive areas and threatened them with enforced quarantine, it added. Visa restrictions were also used to put pressure on reporting.
While foreign reporters based in China typically receive one-year visas which is renewed annually, least 13 correspondents were given press credentials valid only for 6 months or less, the FCCC said.
Journalists were also used as “pawns” in China’s diplomatic disputes, it added.
China expelled more than a dozen foreign journalists at US media organizations in 2020, amid a series of tit-for-tat actions between the countries. Washington also slashed the number of journalists permitted to work in the United States at four major Chinese state-owned media outlets.
In September, Australia helped two of its foreign correspondents leave China after they were questioned by the country’s state security ministry.
Journalists reporting from far western Xinjiang, where China has been accused of large-scale human rights abuses, encountered especially intense harassment, the report said.
Last year Chinese authorities detained Cheng Lei, an Australian citizen working for Chinese state media, and later Haze Fan, a Chinese national working for Bloomberg News, both on suspicion of endangering national security.
Both remain in detention.