Major US newspapers call on China to reverse expulsions

Major US newspapers call on China to reverse expulsions
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The New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal on Tuesday published an open letter online asking China to reverse its decision to expel their reporters from working in the communist country as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread worldwide.

The request comes one week after China announced it was expelling journalists from the three major newspapers as tensions continued to escalate over press coverage of the coronavirus outbreak that originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan. 

"This move — made in retaliation for recent expulsions by the United States government — is one that we would protest under any circumstances,” the joint letter reads. “But it is uniquely damaging and reckless as the world continues the struggle to control this disease, a struggle that will require the free flow of reliable news and information.”

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“The media is collateral damage in a diplomatic dispute between the Chinese and U.S. governments, threatening to deprive the world of critical information at a perilous moment,” it adds.

Tuesday's letter was signed by Fred Ryan of The Washington Post, A.G. Sulzberger of The New York Times and William Lewis of The Wall Street Journal.

A spokesman for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on March 17 that the removal of the reporters was "entirely necessary" and called them "reciprocal countermeasures that China is compelled to take in response to the unreasonable oppression the Chinese media organizations experience in the U.S."

"They are legitimate and justified self-defense in every sense,” the spokesman said at the time. “What the U.S. has done is exclusively targeting Chinese media organizations, and hence driven by a Cold War mentality and ideological bias." 

China also ordered all U.S. journalists “whose press credentials are due to expire before the end of 2020” to “notify the Department of Information of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs within four calendar days starting from today and hand back their press cards within ten calendar days.”

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Three weeks ago, the U.S. State Department announced it had identified five media outlets as “foreign missions of the People’s Republic of China."

“Unlike foreign media organizations in China, these entities are not independent news organizations,” Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Senate deadlocked on relief measures The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden vs. Trump as Sanders exits race GOP rep calls for US to bring international case against China over coronavirus MORE said in a March 2 statement, when it was announced that the number of journalists from those publications allowed in the U.S. would be capped at 100. 

“The decision to implement this personnel cap is not based on any content produced by these entities, nor does it place any restrictions on what the designated entities may publish in the United States,” he added.