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 journalists with The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal.

“The expulsion of foreign journalists from China is not only a violation of press freedom but comes at a time when China and all other nations around the world should ensure a free flow of independent news to combat the current COVID-19 pandemic”, IPI Executive Director Barbara Trionfi said. “We call on China to urgently reverse this decision and allow journalists to remain in the country and continue covering developments there.”

“Similarly, IPI urges the U.S. government to engage with its Chinese counterpart to ensure that U.S. journalists are allowed to work in China”, Trionfi said.   “Now is the time to put aside any feud between the U.S. and Chinese governments and promote the public interest in receiving timely and accurate information from across the globe. Only this will save the lives of people in both countries, and beyond”

A statement issued by the Chinese foreign ministry said that the decision to expel journalists with U.S. citizenship working for The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal was in response to the U.S. government’s “outrageous” action in December 2018 to designate Chinese media outlets as foreign missions and in February this year to impose a limit on their number of employees.

China’s foreign ministry told journalists working for the three media outlets to handover their press cards within 10 days. The government also asked the three outlets, as well as Voice of America and Time magazine, to furnish information about their staff, finance, operation and real estate in China. Furthermore, the Chinese government also announced that the journalists who have been asked to handover their press credentials will also not be allowed to operate in the semiautonomous regions of Macau and Hong Kong.

On February 18, China had expelled three journalists of The Wall Street Journal for an opinion piece published in the newspaper and written by an outside commentator. China’s authorities described the article as “racist” and said that it “denigrated” China’s efforts to combat the outbreak. The Chinese foreign ministry said the Journal has refused to apologize for the article.

China’s government and its state media have tightly controlled the flow of information about the coronavirus outbreak. In February, two Chinese citizen journalists who had been covering coronavirus in Wuhan, the central Chinese city at the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, went missing.