The Chinese government implemented preventive measures against the Covid-19 pandemic and imposed restrictions on visas to restrict the work of journalists, which contributed to a “rapid decline” in freedom of the press in the country.
For the third year in a row, no journalist enrolled in the Association of Foreign Correspondents in China said that working conditions in the country had improved. This is the result of a report based on responses from 150 journalists and interviews with heads of delegation.
“All weapons of state power – including the surveillance systems put in place to fight the coronavirus – have been used to disturb and intimidate foreign journalists, as well as their Chinese counterparts and those who the foreign press tried to interview,” the Reuters report said.
The Chinese authorities have denied journalists access to sensitive areas and threatened to impose quarantine periods. Visa restrictions have also been used to pressure journalists not to publish news harmful to the regime.
At least 13 correspondents received a credential that was valid for a maximum of six months, as opposed to the usual twelve months, which are renewed annually.
Journalists were also used “as farmers” in China’s diplomatic battles, according to a report by the Association of Foreign Correspondents.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said the allegations made in the report were “unsupported.”
“All foreign journalists reporting on China’s news under the law will be well received,” said Wang. “What we reject is the ideological bias against China and propaganda in the name of freedom of the press.”
China banned at least 12 foreign journalists from the US media in 2020 alone, amid an exchange of allegations between the two countries. Washington also reduced the number of journalists allowed to work in four Chinese state media groups in the United States.
In September, the Australian government helped two Australian journalists leave China after being questioned by the Chinese Ministry of Security.
Journalists who have worked in Xinjiang Province, where China is accused of serious human rights violations, have been the target of a particularly intense print campaign.
Last year, Chinese authorities arrested Cheng Lei, an Australian national who worked for the Chinese CGTN. and Haze Fan, a Chinese national who works for Bloomberg News. Both were arrested on suspicion of a national security threat.