China’s diplomats must stop attacking media over coronavirus reporting

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urges China’s ambassadors around the world to stop denigrating media outlets that criticize Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

As the pandemic continues to spread internationally while apparently stabilizing in China, Beijing has used its ambassadors to launch an all-out attack campaign against media that publish critical stories linked to the pandemic and China. RSF calls on the ambassadors to desist at once.

“These statements by China’s ambassadors reflect a policy concerted at the highest level of the Chinese government that aims to control international media coverage,” said Cédric Alviani, the head of RSF’s East Asia desk, citing the report entitled "China's Pursuit of a New World Media Order" that RSF published in 2019.

An opinion piece by Peru’s Nobel literature laureate Mario Vargas Llosa in the El País and La República newspapers, saying the coronavirus crisis would not have happened if China had been “a free country and democratic rather than a dictatorship,” was branded as “irresponsible” on 16 March by China’s embassy in Peru, headed by the diplomat Liang Yu.

China’s embassy in Canada, headed by Cong Peiwu, issued three angry statements on 7, 26 and 28 March in which he accused the National Post newspaper of making up claims about censorship in China, and also used the word “irresponsible” to describe the Globe and Mail newspaper’s reporters and sources for a story about the manufacturing of surgical masks in China.

China’s embassy in Australia, headed by the diplomat Cheng Jingye, sent an email to a number of journalist in early March accusing them of “politicizing” the epidemic. China’s ambassador to France, Lu Shaye, a diplomat with a long history of attacking journalists, issued yet another statement yesterday accusing “certain French media” of “crossing a red line” by “gratuitously insulting China.”

Ever since January, the Chinese regime’s censorship policies have been accused of helping to spread the coronavirus, which has so far killed more than 40,000 people and infected almost 900,000, and which has now become a pandemic.

China is ranked 177th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.

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Updated on 01.04.2020