On March 23, Irish RTÉ News journalist, Yvonne Murray, and her husband BBC China Correspondent, John Sudworth, left Mainland China for Taiwan following alleged “months of personal attacks” by Chinese authorities over the stories the pair covered.
What you need to know
The incident sparked a diplomatic row between the EU and China.
- March 31 - the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC) described the incident as indicative of a wider trend of deterioration of the reporting environment in China.
- April 1 - Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson, Hua Chunying, labelled the FCCC an illegal organization and criticized the departure of the couple as a proof of their “guilty conscience” over producing “fake news or rumors” targeting China.
- April 2 - the European External Action Service released a statement criticizing the expulsion of at least 18 journalists from China last year and China’s usage of intimidation tactics such as visa denial, surveillance or threats of legal action.
- April 2 - Hua rebuked the statement as “deliberately confusing right and wrong” maintaining that journalists did “not report harassment to Chinese authorities” and that the expulsions were a response to the United States expulsion of over 60 Chinese correspondents.
According to the last three annual FCCC reports, the deterioration of the journalistic environment in China poses a strategic problem. Without nuanced reporting by experienced foreign correspondents, there is a greater risk that the European public opinion and politicians will be introduced to a simplified and polarizing coverage of Chinese affairs. By attempting to control foreign narratives Beijing may be exacerbating the problem of insufficient mutual understanding.