China’s Blackout of U.S. Media Can No Longer be Ignored

Jim Sciutto, former chief of staff at the U.S. embassy in Beijing, argues that “the time has come to exact a price for unfair behavior” towards American journalists and media companies, such as withholding visas or blocking websites. He suggests reframing the issue as one of free trade, rather than free speech, and while he rejects the notion of retaliatory visa limits on Chinese journalists, he suggests applying them instead to state media executives. From The Washington Post:

[…] American journalists covering sensitive topics have received messages containing threats to their safety. China has delayed or refused visas to many U.S. journalists, feeding suspicions that the approval process has become a form of blackmail. Meanwhile, the United States has granted and continues to grant visas to nearly 700 Chinese journalists to report in the States, most of whom work for Chinese state media.

[…] As many diplomats have concluded, the United States must deal with the China that is, not the China it wants. And today China has no free press or Internet. Yet while American journalists are subject to Chinese laws, they have broken none in reporting the stories cited above. They are simply doing their jobs. Their employers are implicitly being asked to soften their China coverage or pay a price. To their credit, they have refused to be cowed.

The health and wealth of leading U.S. media companies in one of the world’s largest markets are a matter of national interest, not simply of China’s “internal affairs.” Americans should ask: Where will our premier media companies be in two, five or 10 years if they are shut out of China? And how will this affect our commitment to the free flow of ideas globally? U.S. core interests are at stake. We have every right to defend them, even in China. [Source]

Read more on bureaucratic interference—including the cases of the Post’s Andrew Higgins, The New York Times’ Chris Buckley and Al Jazeera English’s Melissa Chan—and physical attacks against foreign journalists, via CDT.