China Warns Foreign Media not to Cover Protest Calls (Updated)

As last week’s calls for Jasmine Revolution protests went out over the Internet, Chinese police began calling foreign reporters to warn them against reporting on any incidents of unrest. Reporters who did report from the designated scenes of protests were harassed and in some cases beaten. Earlier this week, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu defended the treatment of reporters, saying those who encountered problems were not obeying the law. And now foreign journalists are reporting that they are being called in for questioning and warnings. Some have been told that if they report from the Wangfujing area of Beijing, the site designated for Jasmine protests, their press cards may be revoked (See, for example, tweets from Al Jazeera correspondent Melissa Chan.). From AP:

One European broadcast journalist said Thursday that he was told by police that there would be unspecified consequences if he went again to the site on Beijing’s popular Wangfujing shopping street. He asked not to be identified by name for fear it would affect his future Chinese visa applications.

He said that during his videotaped meeting at a police station Wednesday, officials told him he would be punished if he filmed the shopping street again and that his normal life in China would be disrupted. He said three other colleagues from other media reported having similar conversations with police.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China said in a statement that some journalists reported being “accused of trying to help stir up a revolution, disrupt harmony in China and simply cause trouble.”

An Associated Press journalist who met with police Thursday was told his journalist card could be revoked if he went to Wangfujing again without prior approval from the local district office.

The requirement appears to signal a tightening of reporting rules in China, which were liberalized ahead of the Olympics to allow foreign media to travel freely and interview anyone as long as they first asked permission from the interviewee. Some sensitive areas, such as Tibet, have remained off-limits to reporters without special permits.

See also, “Report on China’s ‘Jasmine Revolution’? Not if you want your visa.” from the Christian Science Monitor. The New York Times reports on additional restrictions on activities involving foreigners in China:

In Shanghai, the authorities objected to the locale of an annual St. Patrick’s Day parade set for March 12 that had been expected to draw more than 2,000 people, prompting Irish organizations to abruptly cancel the event on Monday. The parade was to have taken place on a major street close to a cinema where the postings had urged people to gather every Sunday to show their displeasure with the Chinese government.

Western diplomats in China said other events that were planned by or with foreigners had also been abruptly canceled. “We’ve noticed that a somewhat larger number of our cultural and educational programs around China are being postponed or canceled, but we haven’t been notified by Chinese authorities of any specific reason,” said one diplomat, who spoke on ground rules of condition of anonymity.