Jan 30, 2022 - World

Report: Foreign journalists in China face increasing intimidation

 A police car is parked in front of a display with Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics official mascots on January 30, 2022 in Beijing, China

Photo: Andrea Verdelli/Getty Images

Foreign journalists and news outlets are "facing unprecedented hurdles covering China" as the country's government steps up "excessive intimidation" efforts, according to a report published Sunday night.

Why it matters: As global outlets prepare to cover the Beijing Winter Olympics, which begin Friday, 99% of foreign journalists surveyed by the Foreign Correspondents' Club of China reported conditions that did not meet international standards and 62% said they were "obstructed at least once by police or other officials," per the report.

  • More than a quarter of survey respondents said their sources were harassed, detained or called in for questioning by police more than once.
  • "As the number of journalists forced out by the Chinese state grows due to excessive intimidation or outright expulsions, covering China is increasingly becoming an exercise in remote reporting," notes the report, which surveyed 127 of the FCCC's 192 members.

The big picture: Chinese authorities "appear to be encouraging a spate of lawsuits or the threat of legal action against foreign journalists, typically filed by sources long after they have explicitly agreed to be interviewed," according to an FCCC statement accompanying the report.

  • "The FCCC highlights this development with alarm, as foreigners involved in civil or criminal lawsuits and court proceedings in China can be banned from leaving the country, based on past precedent," the report notes.
  • State-backed "attacks against foreign journalists, particularly trolling campaigns online, have made it increasingly hard for journalists remaining in China to operate," the FCCC said.

Meanwhile, a crackdown on Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement by the nation's ruling Chinese Communist Party is threatening the survival of independent media in the city, which was once among the freest in Asia, Axios' Sara Fischer and Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian write.

What they're saying: "The risk landscape is changing at the moment in unfamiliar ways," said David Rennie, Beijing bureau chief of the Economist, in the report.

  • "In particular, news organizations face warnings that their reporting may expose them to legal sanctions or civil lawsuits, or — most ominously — to national security investigations," he added.

By the numbers: 46% of respondents said their bureaus were understaffed because they were unable to bring in the required number of journalists.

  • 88% of the journalists who in 2021 traveled to Xinjiang, where the U.S. and other governments have recognized Chinese authorities' repression of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang as genocide, said that they were "visibly followed."

Read the full report:

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