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Beijing intensifies attacks on foreign media, journalists: Report

News Agencies | Updated on: 16 March 2021, 8:32 IST

China's move to ban the broadcasting of BBC World News last month for reporting on human rights violations in Xinjiang has exemplified Beijing's escalating attacks on foreign media and journalists to curb independent coverage of its government.

Eryk Bagshaw writes for the Sydney Morning Herald that China has unleashed a torrent of videos, photos and articles accusing foreign journalists of fabricating grey skies, media companies of being proxies for foreign intelligence services, and manufacturing suppression in Xinjiang, where over a million Uyghur Muslims have been detained.

"There's clear temporal and narrative alignment across diplomatic and state media messaging as well as among pro-CCP [Chinese Communist Party] influencers and patriotic Twitter accounts... From which we can infer a level of coordination and a willingness to target international audiences," said Australian Strategic Policy Institute researchers Albert Zhang and Jacob Wallis.

China's escalating responses to what it sees as unjustified attacks on its policies have grown sharper as incomes, nationalism and international scrutiny have grown.

China's tactics are two-fold. It is simultaneously raising doubts about the limited independent coverage of its government while expelling, restricting or undermining the few journalists left to give a picture of its intentions.

According to The Foreign Correspondents Club of China (FCCC), 2020 saw the largest expulsion of foreign journalists since the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, reported The Sydney Morning Herald.

At least 18 journalists were forced to leave, hurried out and their visas were cancelled over national security concerns.

A US media correspondent was reported having to "take three COVID tests over five days" as she attempted to report from Xinjiang, where Chinese state media has routinely claimed the Muslim-minority Uighurs are prospering, not being detained.

"They obstructed us and said we had to take a test, even though we'd just gotten tested 30 minutes earlier at the train station," she said.

When asked about the FCCC report, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said the Chinese government "had never acknowledged the organisation".

Despite China saying that it wants to be open to the world and to show everybody what a vibrant society it is, the country clearly restricts reporting of anything that does not adhere to its vision, Steven Lee Myers, the expelled Beijing bureau chief for The New York Times told FCCC.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the breakdown in two-way communication via the media is rapidly narrowing the space for dialogue at a time when political tensions between China and the West are at their highest point in decades.

Meanwhile, Britain's ambassador to China, Caroline Wilson, was summoned by Chinese authorities for her "ideological prejudice" after she wrote an opinion piece that defended the work of reporters. The piece was blocked from being shared by China's censors.

"Foreign media criticising the Chinese authorities does not mean that they do not like China," she wrote.

The National Radio and Television Administration (NRTA) of China had barred the broadcasting of BBC World News on the mainland last month, claiming that it has done a "slew of falsified" reporting on issues such as human rights violations in Xinjiang based on interviews of victims surviving "re-education camps."

"China will not allow the broadcast of BBC World News in Chinese mainland after the broadcaster did a slew of falsified reporting on issues including Xinjiang and China's handling of COVID19, a move (that) experts said send (a) clear signal that fake news is not tolerated in China," the Global Times wrote on Twitter.

China has been rebuked globally for cracking down on Uyghur Muslims by sending them to mass detention camps, interfering in their religious activities and sending members of the community to undergo some form of forcible re-education or indoctrination.


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First published: 16 March 2021, 8:30 IST