China Expels Al-Jazeera English Reporter

Posted May 8th, 2012 at 8:50 am (UTC-5)
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China has expelled Al-Jazeera's lone English-language reporter in Beijing and is refusing to allow the pan-Arab news network to replace her.

The Qatar-based network says that it “had no other choice” but to close its English-language Beijing bureau, after China failed to renew the accreditation of Melissa Chan or allow for her replacement.

The Foreign Correspondent's Club of China said it was “appalled” by the decision, calling it an attempt to “censor and intimidate” foreign journalists in China. A spokesman also accused Beijing of failing to explain what specific rules or regulations the reporter is accused of breaking.

During a spirited briefing with foreign journalists, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei gave no specific reason for Chan's expulsion. But he warned that foreign journalists must abide by the “relevant Chinese laws and regulations.”

“Foreign correspondents enjoy a very free reporting environment in China. Meanwhile, we stress that foreign correspondents must abide by Chinese law and regulations and journalistic ethics when reporting in China. We handled the media organization and its staff in question based on the law and regulations and performance of that person.”

Chinese officials have in the past year voiced displeasure with al-Jazeera's China reporting, particularly its November documentary on Chinese prisons. Chan was not involved in the program, which highlighted inmates imprisoned without trial and forced into hard labor.

Al-Jazeera says it will continue to employ several Arabic-language reporters in China, and says it is working with Beijing authorities to reopen its English bureau.

Chan, a U.S. citizen, is believed to be the first foreign reporter kicked out of China since a Japanese journalist was expelled in 1998 for allegedly obtaining state secrets.

Chan has been strongly critical of reporting conditions in China and has documented several police attempts to stifle her reporting.

During one of her video reports dealing with secret Chinese detention centers, Chan was interrupted by police who ordered her to turn off the camera.

The Committee to Protect Journalists also says Chan has been subject to malware (malicious software) attacks by anonymous computer hackers.

Chan said on her Twitter page last month that she has accepted a journalism fellowship at Stanford University aimed at helping journalists protect their computers against hackers.