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India and China trade blames for ill-treating each other’s journalists

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(TibetanReview.net, Jun03’23) – India and China have been trading charges for alleged ill-treatment of their journalists working in their host countries, with both the sides blaming the other for the situation. However, China’s ill-treatment of foreign journalists working in the country is all too well known and has been reported on annually by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC) over the past many years. In the case of India and China, the development has been taking place in the background of their tenuous relationship arising from their combative Chinese-occupied Tibet border situation.

India and China ties have been frosty and on a downward spiral since 2020 owing to the clash between their troops in the Galwan area in the Ladakh heights. Even as the two sides held talks on May 31 to discuss proposals for disengagement in the remaining friction points along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the relations between the two Asian countries are deteriorating even further – this time over the issue of media access, noted the firstpost.com Jun 1.

Amid reports that China has expelled most Indian journalists, New Delhi said Jun 2 that it was in touch with Beijing on the issue and expressed hope that Chinese authorities will facilitate the continued presence of Indian journalists working and reporting from China, reported the timesofindia.com Jun 3.

It cited India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) as saying foreign journalists, including Chinese journalists, had been pursuing journalistic activities in India without any limitations or difficulties in reporting or doing media coverage.

“Meanwhile, Indian journalists in China have been operating with certain difficulties, such as not being permitted to hire locals as correspondents or journalists. As you know, foreign media can and do freely hire local journalists to work for their bureaus in India,” MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi has said.

“In addition, Indian journalists also face several restrictions while getting access and travelling locally,” Bagchi has added. “Indian side supports and facilitates foreign journalists in India, I am sure you can attest to it. At the same time, there should be no deviations from normal journalistic behaviour and activities, or from the provisions governing journalist visas,” he has added.

* * *

China on the other hand, has accused India of “unfair and discriminatory treatment” of Chinese journalists and vowed to take “appropriate countermeasures”. It also called for practical action so that “normal media exchanges” could resume, noted the firstpost.com report.

Earlier, on May 30, American newspaper the Wall Street Journal reported that India and China were “virtually wiping out media access” to each other by ejecting each other’s journalists.

It noted that New Delhi had denied visa renewals this month to the last two remaining Chinese state media journalists in the country, from state-run Xinhua News Agency and China Central Television (CCTV), leaving the country without any Chinese state media reporter – a first since at least the 1980s.

The report cited Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning as accusing India of being unfair to Chinese journalists since 2017. In her statement on May 31, Mao has said that India had “without reason” shortened the validity period of Chinese journalists’ visas to between one and three months. Also, in 2020, New Delhi had refused to approve applications for Chinese reporters to be permanently based in India.

What Mao had failed to mention, however, was the fact that China had also expelled Indian journalists from their soil. Last month, reporters from The Hindu and New Delhi’s state-owned public broadcaster, Prasar Bharati, who were travelling outside China were barred from returning. Moreover, a Hindustan Times reporter was told in May that his press credentials were being invalidated, the report said.

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China’s antipathy towards independent foreign media is well known. In early 2020, it expelled more than a dozen American reporters, including those from The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and The Washington Post.

The following year, the FCCC released a report highlighting how the authorities in Beijing were finding new ways to intimidate foreign journalists, due to which six left the country.

The FCCC report stated that the attacks demonstrated an “emboldened Chinese government willing to go to great lengths to discredit foreign journalists and their work”. However, it noted that “none of this has stopped foreign journalists from doing their job, nor major global news organisations from going after the stories that matter”.

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