A Daily news digest by Jasper van Santen

China Expels Al Jazeera English-Language Channel – NYTimes.com

In Politics, Really?!? on May 8, 2012 at 09:33

China Expels Al Jazeera English-Language Channel 

Al Jazeera, the satellite broadcasting network, was forced by the Chinese authorities to close its China news operations of its English-language channel on Monday, the first such action in almost 14 years and the strongest sign yet of fraying relations between the ruling Communist Party and the overseas journalists who cover it.

The network’s correspondent Melissa Chan was scheduled to leave Beijing by jet Monday night after the government refused normally routine requests to renew her press credentials or to allow another correspondent to replace her.

She declined to be quoted about her departure, and the government’s motive was not explicitly stated. But among other broadcasts, officials were said by some to have been angered by an English-language documentary on Chinese re-education through labor camps that Al Jazeera produced outside China and broadcast on its network in November.

The labor camps are often used to punish dissidents and other troublemakers. The documentary called the camps a form of slavery in which millions of prisoners produce goods sold worldwide by major companies. China denies using slave labor in its prisons.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the Beijing-based Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China noted that Ms. Chan played no role in the documentary that appeared to anger the Chinese, and that the government had offered no specific reason for denying the renewal of her visa beyond violations of unnamed rules.

“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 group stated. “The F.C.C.C. believes that foreign news organizations, not the Chinese government, have the right to choose who works for them in China, in line with international standards.”

Jazeera English officials expressed regret at the closing of their China operations, and said in a statement they had sought additional visas for journalists to expand their coverage here without success.

The closure, if not reversed, is a potentially significant loss for Al Jazeera Network, which began more than 15 years ago as the first independent news channel in the Arab world. It has expanded to more than 20 channels with more than 60 bureaus on six continents, according to the Web site of the parent company, based in Doha, Qatar. Ms. Chan, an American, was recently accepted as a Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford for the 2012-13 academic year.

“We constantly cover the voice of the voiceless, and sometimes that calls for tough news coverage from anywhere in world,” Salah Negm, Al Jazeera’s English news director, said in a written statement. “We hope China appreciates the integrity of our news coverage and our journalism. We value this journalistic integrity in our coverage of all countries in the world.”


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