A van leaves the U.S. Consulate General as a police officer watches in Chengdu, China, in 2020. Chengdu police detained Sjoerd den Daas, a Dutch correspondent with NOS, and his camera operator while they covered a protest on February 27, 2024. (Photo: Reuters/Thomas Peter)

Dutch journalist Sjoerd den Daas and camera operator detained by Chinese police while covering protest

Taipei, March 5, 2024—Chinese authorities must respect foreign journalists’ right to report in the country, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday after police detained Sjoerd den Daas, a Dutch correspondent with the Dutch public broadcaster NOS, and his camera operator while they covered a protest last week. 

Den Daas and a camera operator were reporting on a protest outside the investment bank Sichuan Trust on February 27 in Chengdu, the capital of southwestern Sichuan province, when a man in plainclothes grabbed the journalist by the elbow and pulled him away from the crowd,  according to the outlet’s report and footage of the incident, and a March 1 statement by the Foreign Correspondents Club of China, which said den Daas repeatedly showed his government-issued press pass to police.

Two police officers followed the pair and watched as the man shoved den Daas to the ground, picked up his microphone and backpack, and held it until the journalists moved from the group, the footage showed. A group of officers then surrounded the journalists and detained them at a nearby police station for two hours before releasing them without charge.

“The attacks and obstruction Dutch correspondent Sjoerd den Daas endured at the hands of Chinese police in Chengdu are appalling and unacceptable,” said Iris Hsu, CPJ’s China representative. “Authorities must acknowledge the misconduct by local police and protect the journalists’ lawful rights to report as they have repeatedly promised.”

The Foreign Correspondents Club of China was “extremely disturbed” by the incident and called on the government to uphold its promises to allow foreign journalists to report freely in China.  

The Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to CPJ’s email requesting comment.

China is the world’s worst jailer of journalists, according to CPJ’s annual prison census, with at least 44 journalists in prison for their work as of December 1, 2023.