The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC) has revealed tough and restrictive working conditions for foreign journalists and media workers operating in China, particularly those covering sensitive areas, in a new report. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the Chinese government’s hostile environment for foreign correspondents and the press, and calls for all journalists to be able to work without fear of surveillance and harassment.
The FCCC released its annual report, Zero Covid Many Controls: Covering China in 2022, on March 1. The report describes the lived experiences of foreign correspondents in China through 2022, utilising qualitative and survey data to provide a comprehensive look at press freedom challenges in 2022.
Prior to its revocation in mid-December, China’s zero-COVID policy had a significant impact on coverage. 63% of respondents said health protocols that did not apply to non-journalist Chinese citizens hampered or disrupted their reporting.
It was nearly impossible to travel to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), and other sensitive areas. Due to bureaucratic obstacles, official restrictions, and ongoing health protocols, only two respondents will travel to the XUAR in 2022, a 94% decrease from 2021. All three respondents who applied to report in the TAR in the same way were denied. Those who did make it to sensitive areas described being harassed, censored, and detained by authorities.
Journalists and media workers have struggled to obtain visas, with journalists working for US-based news outlets frequently facing lengthy delays compared to those working for European or Asian outlets. While foreign journalists must obtain a J-1 visa, press credentials, and a yearly residence permit, many bureaus reported significant delays in obtaining the required documents for select correspondents.
Correspondents were still subjected to government surveillance, with the vast majority reporting that their communications via social media platforms such as WeChat were monitored. Telephone monitoring and the use of audio recording ‘bugs’ were also routinely observed. Over 90% of respondents said that suspected and confirmed surveillance had influenced their reporting.