The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong, is concerned at the unexplained barring of several major international news organisations from the most important political event in China in the last five years.
The BBC, the Financial Times, the Economist, the New York Times and the Guardian were all denied access to the unveiling of the new Politburo Standing Committee in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on the morning of October 25.
Chinese government officials did not explain why these particular news organisations were all excluded from the carefully stage-managed event attended by some 2,000 journalists. A statement from the congress media centre said that space was limited on Wednesday and noted that the media concerned had been able to attend previous briefings.
However, it seems almost certain that they were likely barred simply because of their, at times, critical coverage of China and Chinese politics.
As the Foreign Correspondents Club of China noted in a statement yesterday: “Using media access as a tool to punish journalists whose coverage the Chinese authorities disapprove of is a gross violation of the principles of press freedom.”
Restricting media access to key political events is an ominously retrograde step for a country and government that claims to be open and transparent. Moreover, it contrasts sharply with the relatively free and open access given to foreign journalists at Communist Party Congresses in the 1980s and 90s when the country was just re-emerging on the world stage.
If China wants to be seen as responsible leader of the global community it should honour President Xi Jinping’s claim that the country “welcomes objective reporting and constructive suggestions” and allow both domestic and foreign journalists to do their job.