CHINA : Chinese propaganda apparatus used to intimidate French reporter (ENG / FRA)

Reporters Without Borders condemns the campaign to defame and intimidate the Beijing-based French journalist Ursula Gauthier that is being waged by China’s government-controlled news media, and the many other attacks against Gauthier on Chinese websites.

The offensive was prompted by story posted on 18 November on the website of French Weekly L’Obs, for which she is the Beijing correspondent.

Noting China’s expression of solidarity with France after the Paris attacks, Ursula Gauthier’s article said China wanted the same kind of international support for its counter-terrorism operations against Uyghurs in the western province of Xinjiang.

The next day, Huanqiu Shibao (Global Times), a media outlet affiliated to Renmin Ribao (People’s Daily), the Chinese Communist Party’s official mouthpiece, published an inflammatory editorial accusing her of “double standards.”

The editorial was reproduced by many other media outlets and websites, while a media lynching was orchestrated in the comments section of the People’s Daily website, including calls for her expulsion and death threats.

A similarly violent offensive was unleashed on online forums about military issues, especially on the and web portals. According to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC), Gauthier’s address and photo have been posted on these forums.

The FCCC, which is technically an illegal organization because it lacks official recognition, reported in a communiqué that Gauthier’s press card has not been renewed by the Chinese authorities. She was reportedly summoned to the Chinese foreign ministry where officials tried to get her to admit that her story was factually incorrect.

“We join the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China in condemning these attempts to intimidate the journalist Ursula Gauthier,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific desk.

“The authorities are usually quick to censor the comments sections of Chinese websites but this time they allowed Gauthier to be the target of a wave of hatred and aggressiveness in order to support their own rhetoric. We also urge the government to stop using accreditation as a lever to intimidate foreign journalists and obstruct their reporting in China.”

Harassment by the authorities, obstruction and intimidation attempts continue to be the lot of foreign journalists and their local fixers in China, which is ranked 176th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

The harassment has stepped up this year. Several foreign journalists were manhandled and prevented from working after the explosions in the port city of Tianjin in August. An FCCC report released in September mentioned several cases of foreign journalists being harassed in the previous six months.
Benjamin Ismaïl
Head of Asia-Pacific Desk
Reporters Without Borders

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