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A Chinese flag flutters against blue sky in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China in December 2017. The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China annual survey, released this week, showed a steady deterioration of working conditions in China for the foreign press. (Reuters/Stringer)

Conditions deteriorate for foreign press in China, FCCC finds

By Steven Butler/CPJ Asia Program Coordinator on January 31, 2018 1:40 PM ET

The Foreign Correspondents' Club of China annual survey, released this week, showed a steady deterioration of working conditions in China for the foreign press. The report, "Access Denied," documented increased efforts by Chinese authorities to deny or restrict foreign correspondents' access to large parts of the country in 2017. Increasingly, foreign ministry officials use China's visa renewal process to pressure journalists and news organizations whose coverage they dislikes, the survey found.

The report documents cases of harassment, beatings, and detention of foreign correspondents by local officials who claim that the journalists are not allowed to report across the country. Regional security agents ramped up intimidation tactics in sensitive areas of the country, including the far-western province of Xinjiang, which has a large Muslim population; the border with North Korea; and in industrial areas. Forty percent of the foreign correspondents who responded to the survey said that conditions had deteriorated in 2017, compared to 29 percent in the 2016 survey. The FCCC survey is based on responses from 117 of its 218 members.

"China-based foreign correspondents have long faced obstruction, harassment, and intimidation for doing their jobs but this report will make depressing reading for even the most seasoned of them," the FCCC board said in a statement. "Our survey results provide strong evidence to suggest that, from an already very low baseline, reporting conditions are getting worse."

The report also found increased concerns about surveillance and invasion of privacy. News sources continue to face a high level of harassment; some journalists said that that fewer Chinese were willing to talk to them. Several news organizations reported that locally hired Chinese staff resigned following harassment from authorities.

The full report can be seen here.


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