Journalists have left China due to excessive intimidation or state expulsions, the report said. Photograph:( AFP )
Threats of legal action, online troll campaigns and dwindling numbers after the expulsion of colleagues -- foreign journalists in China are facing "unprecedented hurdles" from efforts to discredit independent reporting, a press group said Monday.
According to a Beijing-based journalist group, foreign news organisations in China are functioning with dramatically reduced employment levels, and foreign journalists who remain in the country endure intimidation, harassment, and threats of legal action.
According to a recent report by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC), the Chinese government has been developing new strategies to terrorise foreign journalists, their Chinese coworkers, and their contacts and sources.
It also revealed that harassment had reached such a high degree that six journalists had fled the country, according to The Guardian.
In the report, David Rennie, Beijing bureau chief for the Economist, said "the risk landscape is changing at the moment in unfamiliar ways."
"In particular, news organisations face warnings that their reporting may expose them to legal sanctions or civil lawsuits, or—most ominously—to national security investigations," he added.
This marks a "worrying" shift from earlier tools to control the media, such as blacklisting them from events or via problems with press cards and visas, he said.
The increased threats of legal action come after the 2020 detentions of Australian TV anchor Cheng Lei, who worked for Chinese state broadcaster CGTN, and Haze Fan of Bloomberg News.
Chinese authorities have said they are being held on suspicion of endangering national security.
Meanwhile, foreign journalists and their organisations have developed emergency exit plans over heightened risks, and "state-backed attacks... particularly trolling campaigns online" have made it tough for those remaining to operate, the FCCC report said.
Such moves foster growing feelings that foreign media are the enemy, the report added, noting that "coverage of China is suffering".
The findings were based on a survey of 127 of its 192 members.
Covering China is "increasingly becoming an exercise in distant reporting," according to the report, as journalists leave due to extreme harassment or state expulsions.
China declared in 2020 that three major American newspapers, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal, would be expelled from the country.
According to the FCCC report, eighteen journalists working for American media were expelled in 2020.
Many of the correspondents have continued to cover China from other countries, while journalists at US news organisations have had difficulty renewing their press credentials.
(With inputs from agencies)