BEIJING, CHINA — Foreign media in China endured strict COVID controls, widespread harassment and constant surveillance in 2022, a press group said Wednesday.
Nearly half of the foreign journalists in the country were ordered to leave a place or denied access on health and safety grounds last year despite presenting “no health risk by China’s own standards”, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC) said in its annual report.
A similar proportion said problems with smartphone “health codes” rendered them unable to travel at some point last year.
Almost 40 per cent said at least one of their sources had been harassed, detained, questioned or suffered other negative consequences from speaking to foreign media, while 45 per cent reported similar official pressure on Chinese colleagues.
China maintained some of the world’s tightest Covid restrictions for most of last year, curbing travel into and around the country while imposing lengthy quarantines and mass testing regimes.
Beijing abruptly dismantled the policy in December.
“A bevvy of state restrictions, ongoing digital surveillance, and the continued harassment of Chinese colleagues and sources mean existing challenges to true freedom of the press in China remain”, the report said.
The findings were based on a survey of 102 of the FCCC’s 166 members, representing news organisations from 30 countries and regions.
Local regulations mean that independent Chinese media is practically non-existent, while state-backed outlets are heavily censored.
China ranked 175th out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ 2022 Media Freedom Index.