US-China deal over journalists’ visas draws criticism – Community News
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US-China deal over journalists’ visas draws criticism

The United States and China agreed this week to ease restrictions on foreign journalists working within their respective borders, but the deal has been criticized for not doing enough to address China’s repressive stance on press freedom.

Steven Butler, Asia Program Coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York City-based press freedom organization, called the agreement a “step in the right direction” but said it failed to take into account the “routine maltreatment of foreign journalists in China.” , mishandled and arbitrarily refused visas.”

For many years, China has strictly regulated the number of foreign reporters who receive visas to work there and canceled the visas of reporters who produce critical stories about the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

Last year, both countries issued escalating policies restricting the work of journalists.

In February 2020, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs officially designated five state-run Chinese news organizations in the US as weapons of the Chinese government. The department subsequently reduced the number of Chinese citizens employed by the five news organizations allowed to work in the United States at the same time from 160 to 100 and reduced the length of their visas from one year to 90 days.

In response, Beijing authorities have expelled numerous journalists working with major US news organizations in China, leaving them with limited staff to report.

The deal closed this week eases some of those restrictions. Chinese journalists get a multi-entry visa for one year. China promised to give American journalists equal treatment once US policy comes into effect.

While the deal could improve coverage of China by allowing more journalists, press freedom critics say it isn’t worth it, as China is one of the world’s leading jailers of press freedom defenders. In 2021, Reporters Without Borders ranked China 177th out of 180 countries in the press freedom index.

“There is a problem with the concept of trading (American) independent media access to a dictatorial country in exchange for granting the US access to (Chinese) state propaganda media,” said Cedric Alviani, director of the East Asian Bureau of Reporters Without Borders, a Parisian group.

“The US media should not be begging for the opportunity to defeat China, and this should not be part of a state-to-state agreement,” he said.

FILE - Sen.  Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., takes notes during a Senate hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 14, 2021.

FILE – Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., takes notes during a Senate hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 14, 2021.

Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee also attacked the agreement, saying the idea of ​​equivalence between the US and Chinese media is “a farce”. She urged the Biden administration to “create a system that would verify that American journalists are allowed freedom of movement and are free from harassment in mainland China”.

A spokesman for the US State Department defended the deal as a step in the right direction.

“We welcome this progress, but just see it as first steps,” the spokesperson said. “The media environment in the (People’s Republic of China) has deteriorated significantly in recent years.”

“We will continue to work to expand access and improve conditions for American and other foreign media, and we will continue to advocate for media freedom as a reflection of our democratic values,” the spokesperson concluded.

It’s unclear how big the deal’s impact will be on journalism in China, where authorities routinely harass foreign reporters on sensitive topics like human rights, as well as sporting events like the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics.

This week, the country’s Foreign Correspondents Club issued a statement calling on Beijing authorities and the International Olympic Committee to improve international reporting conditions for the Games.

“The foreign press corps has been constantly hampered in its coverage of the preparations for the Winter Olympics, has refused to attend routine events and is prohibited from visiting sports venues in China.”

The group said with less than three months to go before the start of Beijing 2022, there is still “huge uncertainty about how and whether foreign correspondents will be able to beat the Games”.

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