“The current coronavirus epidemic shows that the international community cannot do without reliable and independent news coverage, which makes the reporting by foreign correspondents on the ground more necessary than ever,” said Cédric Alviani, the head of RSF’s East Asia bureau. “We urge Beijing to put an immediate end to this unacceptable and dangerous policy of harassment.”
According to the FCCC report, 82% of the survey’s respondents experienced “interference, harassment or violence,” 51% were obstructed by police or officials, 28% were placed under physical surveillance at one point or another, 44% reported that their Chinese personnel had been harassed, and 25% said their sources had also been harassed.
The report also revealed that foreign correspondents are finding it harder to obtain or renew their visas, and that 12 – a record number in recent years – were given visas of unusually short duration (six months or less) in 2019.
The authorities gave another example of this kind of pressure on 19 February, when the foreign ministry announced that it was expelling three Beijing-based reporters for the Wall Street Journal because their newspaper had published an opinion piece critical of China’s handling of the coronavirus epidemic that contained “racially discriminatory” language and questioned the steadiness of its economy.
China is ranked 177th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.