Since Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, working environments for foreign journalists and their Chinese news assistants have become increasingly difficult. After publishing a paper on this trend last year, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China this week released an update including six reporters’ accounts of harassment. The Committee to Protect Journalists is hosting a publicly available copy of the FCCC report. From CPJ’s introduction:
From being followed by plain clothes policemen to being locked in a hotel conference room, the life of an international journalist in China comes with its challenges. The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China released details on September 13 of six cases of members being harassed by authorities between March and August this year.
With the agreement of the FCCC, the Committee to Protect Journalists periodically posts material that is circulated among its members by email, but is not available to those who don’t have access to the club’s full website. The identities of some of the reporters featured in the latest report have been protected. In some cases, the accounts are reproductions of articles the journalists wrote about the incidents.
Three of the six accounts in the report were filed by anonymous reporters on harassment faced while attempting to cover the August 12 explosions near the port of Tianjin:
European news outlet
We had a bunch of interference in Tianjin. I was held up by police on the side of the road for about an hour along with a video journalist colleague, who is a Chinese national, when we were covering a protest by families of dead firefighters. They kept us from covering the protest.
Also want to add that plainclothes and uniformed police literally locked us in the room where press conferences were held at the hotel in Tianjin at least twice – we have photos of the padlocks – to prevent us from speaking to firefighters’ families, who had charged into the hotel demanding to speak with journalists. They even locked up the fire exit, which is pretty ironic considering we were there covering government screw-ups that led to a massive fire! I asked to leave to use the bathroom and they refused. [Source]
While domestic media was subject to propaganda directives from state authorities immediately following the Tianjin blasts, several members of the foreign media described restriction and official harassment. After CNN retracted a claim that reporter Will Ripley had met official obstruction (it turned out that the interveners were relatives of blast victims), Xinhua’s Chen Shilei took the chance to castigate the American news network: “how could the anchor easily conclude that it was Chinese ‘security and officials’ who stopped Repley [sic] from reporting? How could he easily misinterpret the blocking of reporting as a usual case in China? The reason is inseparable from CNN’s deep-rooted prejudice against China.” While CNN may have leapt to conclusions, the accounts provided by the FCCC could be read as an answer to Chen’s questions.