Foreign Policy Blogs

Wikileaks Cables: China’s Grip on the Media

Recently released U.S. State Department cables from Wikileaks show that the Chinese government exerts strict control over journalists. Domestic Chinese journalists are particularly under tight restrictions.

In terms of foreign news organizations, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Liu Jianchao said during a late-night press conference in November 2008 that Chinese nationals can only work for foreign media in China in a supporting role. They are not allowed to work for foreign media as reporters.

According to the cable, some journalists simply ignore such official edicts:

...a Chinese employee at the Beijing bureau of the UK newspaper 
The Times, told PolOff that bureaus sometimes do not bother to 
register employees with the DSB.  The only disadvantage of not 
joining the DSB, she said, is that unregistered employees are often 
denied credentials for the National People's Congress and similar 
official events.

In a separate cable from April 2009, a new “code of conduct” was issued for Chinese nationals working for foreign media. The cable states in part:

The Beijing Service Bureau for Diplomatic Missions, 
an arm of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that 
manages hiring of PRC staff by foreign news 
organizations, recently forced all assistants to 
attend a briefing and sign a form promising to abide 
by the code, which also requires them to portray a 
"positive" image of China to their employers.  While 
several assistants with whom we spoke said they 
would ignore the rules and continue to conduct de 
facto independent reporting, an American journalist 
told us some of her local assistants are now 
reticent to do reporting work.  At least one U.S. 
news organization has already been called to task 
for violating the code and, in response, has decided 
to stop sending local staff to cover news events 
alone while also adding a foreign journalist's 
byline to any piece penned by a Chinese employee.

 

Author

Genevieve Belmaker
Genevieve Belmaker

Genevieve Belmaker is a freelance journalist and contributing editor with The Epoch Times (www.theepochtimes.com). She also contributes to Quill, the magazine of the Society of Professional Journalists and Poynter.org. Her blog on journalism is http://artofreportage.com.

Genevieve has traveled throughout the U.S., Asia, Central America, Israel and the West Bank for reporting assignments, including major investigative reports on the recovery of New Orleans, the encroaching presence of China in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, the dangerous import of melamine-contaminated milk into the U.S. and settlement outposts in the West Bank. She regularly reports on issues related to journalism, and the work of journalists.

She holds a BA from the University of Southern California in International Relations, and has been a member of several prominent national and international professional media organizations, including the Society of Professional Journalists, Investigative Reporters and Editors, the International Women’s Media Foundation, the New York Press Club, and the Newswomen’s Club of New York. She lives in Jerusalem, Israel with her husband and son.

Areas of Focus:
New Media; Journalism; Culture and Society

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