Al-Jazeera said on Tuesday it has shut its English-language bureau in Beijing after Chinese authorities expelled its correspondentMelissa Chan and failed to grant visas to other journalists.
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC) said it was “appalled” by Beijing’s actions, calling the refusal to grant Chan a new visa a “grave threat to foreign reporters’ ability to work inChina”.
“This is the most extreme example of a recent pattern of using journalist visas in an attempt to censor and intimidate foreign correspondents in China,” the organisation said in a statement.
“The FCCC believes that foreign news organisations, not the Chinese government, have the right to choose who works for them in China, in line with international standards.”
Chan is thought to be the first journalist to be expelled from China since 1998, when Juergen Kremb of the German magazine Der Spiegel was accused of possessing state secrets and ordered to leave the country.
Al-Jazeera said it had no choice but to close its English-language bureau, after China also failed to grant visas to other journalists working for it, but that it would continue to work with the government to reopen.
“We are committed to our coverage of China. Just as China news services cover the world freely we would expect that same freedom in China for any Al-Jazeera journalist,” said Salah Negm, director of news at Al-Jazeera English.
“We hope China appreciates the integrity of our news coverage and our journalism,” he said in a statement.
No reason was given for Chan’s expulsion, but the FCCC said Chinese officials had expressed anger at a documentary the channel aired last November, and had “accused Ms. Chan of violating rules and regulations that they have not specified.”