The White House on Thursday said it was “very disappointed” after Beijing forced a New York Times reporter to leave China and raised concerns about the ability of foreign correspondents to work in that country.
“The United States is deeply concerned that foreign journalists in China continue to face restrictions that impede their ability to do their jobs, including extended delays in processing journalist visas, restrictions on travel to certain locations deemed “sensitive” by Chinese authorities and, in some cases, violence at the hands of local authorities,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney in a statement.
“These restrictions and treatment are not consistent with freedom of the press — and stand in stark contrast with U.S. treatment of Chinese and other foreign journalists,” he added.
Carney’s comments came after Chinese authorities forced New York Times correspondent Austin Ramzy, a Beijing-based reporter, to leave the country, saying he had failed to comply with their visa regulations and denying him a journalist’s permit.
Press groups, however, say that Ramzy was targeted because of the Times' coverage of corruption by high-level Chinese officials. David Barboza, a Times reporter in Shanghai, won a Pulitzer in 2013 for his reports on the wealth of former Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's family.
“We remain concerned that Mr. Ramzy and several other U.S. journalists have waited months, and in some cases years, for a decision on their press credentials and visa applications,” said the Obama press secretary.
“We have raised our concerns about the treatment of journalists and media organizations repeatedly and at the highest levels with the Chinese government, and will continue to do so,” he continued. “We have consistently and clearly expressed our expectation to Chinese authorities that China issue and renew visas for journalists working for U.S. media outlets in China.
Carney said that the “two countries should be expanding media exchanges to enhance mutual understanding and trust, not restricting the ability of journalists to do their work.”
“We urge China to commit to timely visa and credentialing decisions for foreign journalists, unblock U.S. media websites, and eliminate other restrictions that impede the ability of journalists to practice their profession,” he added.
Press groups say that China has ramped up its pressure on foreign journalists, citing Beijing’s decision to also reject a journalist visa for a Reuters reporter in 2013.