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US decries harassment of foreign journalists in China

July 30, 2021

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the US is worried about the harassment and intimidation of foreign correspondents reporting on the floods in China.

German journalist Matthias Bölinger
German journalist Matthias Bölinger faced harassment from passersby last week while on a reporting assignmentImage: DW

The United States is "deeply concerned with the increasingly harsh surveillance, harassment and intimidation of US and other foreign journalists" covering recent floods in China, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said late Thursday.

"The PRC government claims to welcome foreign media and support their work, but its actions tell a different story," he added.

The statement came hours after China accused the BBC of broadcasting "fake news" about last week's deadly flooding in Henan.

Earlier on Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian called the BBC a "Fake News Broadcasting Company" that has "attacked and smeared China, seriously deviating from journalistic standards."

Journalists harassed online and by local residents

The Foreign Correspondents' Club of China had said on Tuesday that journalists from several media organizations reporting on the floods were harassed online and by local residents, with staff from the BBC and the Los Angeles Times receiving death threats.

German journalist Matthias Bölinger, who also reports for DW from China, faced harassment from passersby last week while on a reporting assignment. 

Hong Kong's free press in peril

On July 24, Bölinger was live for an live English-language interview with DW in Henan's capital Zhengzhou when passersby filmed him with their mobile phones. He said a few people also told him he was not allowed to film at all. 

It later turned out that people had confused him for a BBC correspondent who was also working in Zhengzhou and who the Chinese locals felt reported "falsehoods" and manipulated the statements of Chinese interviewees.

Bölinger — who is accredited by the Chinese Foreign Ministry for journalistic activities in China — has since involuntarily become the focus of a bizarre debate on Chinese social media. 

China urged not to cut press access to 2022 Olympics

Meanwhile, Price on Thursday urged China not to cut press access to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

"We call on the PRC to act as a responsible nation hoping to welcome foreign media and the world for the upcoming Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games," he said.

dvv/sri (AFP, Reuters)