US papers ask China not to expel journos

World | REUTERS 25 Mar 2020

Publishers of three US newspapers urged China yesterday to reverse the expulsion of their journalists, calling the move "uniquely damaging and reckless" at a time when the world is fighting the coronavirus.

China announced last week it was revoking the press accreditations of all American journalists in the China bureaus of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, which were due to expire at the end of this year.

"We strongly urge the Chinese government to reverse its decision to force the Americans working for our news organizations to leave," the publishers said.

"Perhaps more than any major news event in modern history, this moment underscores the urgent importance of both probing, accurate, on-the-ground reporting from the centers of the pandemic and of sharing the information."

China's foreign ministry had not seen the letter, spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily media briefing, but he said the expulsions were "necessary countermeasures" in response to the "unjustifiable oppression" of Chinese media in the US.

The expulsions were the latest escalation in a dispute over media freedom and access, which has seen Washington order four Chinese state media outlets to reduce their total staff in the US to 100 from 160, citing a "deepening crackdown" on independent reporting in China.

Last month, Washington also demanded journalists from Chinese state media be registered as staff of diplomatic missions. China then expelled three Journal reporters - including two Americans - after the paper published an opinion column calling China the "real sick man of Asia."

Its foreign ministry has said its measures are "necessary" and "reciprocal" against "escalating discrimination and oppression against Chinese media."

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