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China Clamps Down on Media With Closure of Al Jazeera Beijing Bureau
Freedom House denounces Chinese authorities’ refusal to renew the visa and press credentials of Al Jazeera English’s Melissa Chan, thereby forcing the closure of its Beijing Bureau. This is a clear instance of Chinese authorities using visas as a tool to censor foreign media and is a demonstration of the abysmal environment for journalists in China. Freedom House calls on Chinese authorities to reinstate Chan’s visa and allow her to resume her work as a correspondent.
Chan had worked as an Al Jazeera correspondent in Beijing since 2007. She was given no specific reason for the expulsion, though her reporting was likely a factor. She filed hundreds of stories from China, including pieces on China’s ‘imaginary revolution,” and the network of secret detention centers known as the ‘black jails.’
China’s media environment remains one of the world's most restrictive. China was ranked Not Free in Freedom in the World 2012, Freedom of the Press 2012 and Freedom on the Net 2011. Leaders of the Chinese Communist Party use control of the media to propagate positive views of the party and government, while vilifying those deemed to be their enemies. Since 2007, foreign journalists have legally been free of travel restrictions and allowed to conduct interviews with private individuals without prior government consent. Yet Chinese authorities still strictly control the activities of foreign journalists - journalists facing threats, expulsion, and delays in receiving visas. Last week, police threatened to revoke the visas of foreign reporters attempting to enter the hospital where Chen Guangcheng was confined.