Foreign journalists working in China experienced surveillance, government interference and being followed. Conditions were particularly bad in Xinjiang, where "re-education" camps for Muslim minorities have been set up.
Working conditions for foreign journalists in China worsened in 2018, a survey showed Tuesday, partly due to government interference with reporting on Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang.
The Foreign Correspondent's Club of China said 55 percent of respondents said reporting conditions deteriorated, compared to 40 percent in 2017.
"Not a single correspondent said conditions improved," the group said, unveiling the results of a survey of its 204 foreign correspondent members, 109 of whom responded to questions.
In 2018, rights groups reported that Uighurs and other Muslim minority groups were being detained in the western Xinjiang region — accusations the Chinese government vehemently denied.
Later, the Chinese government effectively legalized the use of "education and training centers" for Muslims to combat what they called religious extremism.
Journalists in Xinjiang targeted
Surveillance and government interference in the Xinjiang region were partly responsible for foreign journalists worsened reporting conditions.
"Rapidly expanding surveillance and widespread government interference against reporting in the country's far northwestern region of Xinjiang drove a significant deterioration in the work environment for foreign journalists in China in 2018," the report found.
The FCCC's survey found 24 out of 27 respondents who traveled to the region experienced interference there, 19 were asked or forced to delete data and 23 were visibly followed.
"I have witnessed files being moved in my laptop, also in my phone I have actually seen them in my Gmail opening and closing files," the survey quoted Australian Broadcasting Corporation correspondent Matthew Carney as saying.
Sophia Yan, China correspondent for the UK's Telegraph, tweeted that she had been reprimanded and warned by officials over her reporting on the Muslim crackdown in Xinjiang.
Additionally, 37 percent of correspondents said the Chinese staff of foreign media, who usually work as interpreters, were harassed, pressured or intimidated, and six correspondents reported difficulties renewing their visas related to their coverage.
Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular news briefing that the report was "not worth refuting" and could not represent the views of all foreign journalists.
The government has repeatedly said it is committed to ensuring foreign media can report easily, but that they must follow the rules and regulations.
The government is particularly strict when it comes to sensitive subjects, such as Tibet, which remains off limits for foreign journalists, apart from government-organised visits.
law/aw (dpa, Reuters)