The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom, today condemned China’s decision to expel three journalists with The Wall Street Journal.

China revoked the press credentials of three Journal reporters based in Beijing on Wednesday and has ordered them to leave the country within five days.

According to reports, the expulsion is a response to an opinion piece published by the Journal on February 3. The article, which was entitled “China is the real sick man of Asia” and written by an American professor, criticized China’s response to the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

“China should reverse its decision to expel three Wall Street Journal reporters and allow them to report without interference”, IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen. “Punishing the Wall Street Journal’s news operation in response to an opinion piece is wrong and shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the relationship between news reporting and opinion writing.”

China’s authorities described the article as “racist” and “denigrated” China’s efforts to combat the outbreak. The Chinese foreign ministry said the Journal has refused to apologize for the article.

The exiled reporters are two U.S. citizens, Josh Chin and Chao Deng, and an Australian citizen, Philip Wen. This is the first time in decades that China has expelled several journalists from one international news organization at the same time, according to the Journal. In the past the country has denied the renewal of residence visas to journalists, effectively forcing them to leave the country.

China’s government and its state media have tightly controlled what is published about the coronavirus outbreak. Earlier this month two Chinese citizen journalists who had been covering coronavirus in Wuhan, the central Chinese city at the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, went missing.