The year is off to a bad start for the foreign media in China. Greatfire.org, a website that monitors censorship in China, reported on Twitter today that the website of the British newspaper The Guardian has been inaccessible in China since yesterday.
Reporters Without Borders is worried by the blocking, which could be the first sign that the Chinese government plans to forge further ahead in 2014 with its policy of censoring and discriminating against the foreign media, after applying it with more vigour in recent months.
“This blocking does not bode well for any improvement in the foreign media’s ability to operate under China’s authoritarian regime, which keeps on censoring them more and more,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We urge The Guardian to immediately refer this case to the Chinese courts.
“We expect a firm and concrete reaction from the international community to the
growing censorship of the foreign media. This trend must be firmly condemned. At the same time, concrete actions must be envisaged with the aim of stopping it.
“If the blocking of The Guardian continues, we will endeavour to make its reports available to Chinese citizens and we will continue to provide them with information about how to circumvent the ‘great firewall.’ President Xi Jinping’s government needs to realize that this policy is counterproductive.”
The reason for the blocking is still unknown. The Guardian said: “No China-related stories published by The Guardian in the past two days would obviously be perceived as dangerous by the country's leadership.”
The blocking happened just days after China-based Internet users reported that they had been able to regain access to the Chinese versions of the Reuters and Wall Street Journal websites.
Policy of intimidating the foreign media
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China issued a statement at the start of December condemning government attempts to blackmail and intimidate foreign reporters. It named New York Times journalists Philip Pan (the bureau chief) and Chris Buckley, freelance journalist Paul Mooney and Al Jazeera journalist Melissa Chan, who was forced to leave in May 2012.
The threat of being denied a visa renewal has been used to put pressure on at least 20 Bloomberg and New York Times journalists.
The authorities also have no compunction about inventing new restrictions to
prevent coverage of sensitive events. When a car was driven into pedestrians and caught fire in Tiananmen Square last October, journalists were prevented from covering the event and interviewing witnesses. Police even briefly detained BBC and AFP reporters who tried to cover the incident.
China is on the Reporters Without Borders list of “Enemies of the Internet” and is
ranked 173rd out of 179 countries in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders press