China’s decision to expel US journalists is wrong | HT Editorial
At a time when the free flow of information is critical, geopolitical rifts are deepeningUpdated: Mar 19, 2020 07:15 IST
China has decided to expel journalists working for The New York Times, Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, and asked them to provide details about their operations. This comes after the United States (US) restricted the number of Chinese journalists, working for the State-controlled media, to 100. The move, which comes at a time when the free flow of information across borders is more important than ever, is wrong and unfortunate.
There is, of course, a context to the decisions. Ties between the US and China have dipped in recent years — from geopolitical tensions to the trade war to, more recently, President Donald Trump terming the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) as the “China Virus”. There is also a disjunct in the political systems, and the understanding of the role of a free Press. China sees critical coverage, including of its handling of Covid-19, as motivated and seeks to crack down on those it considers unfriendly or hostile media platforms and reporters, given that it is domestically used to a conformist Press under tight control. That is not how the media operates — in any functioning democracy. Beijing would do well to look at the coverage in the US media of Mr Trump’s presidency to know that these institutions are autonomous.
These decisions show that even at a time when all actors, both government and private, across borders, need to work together, and the exchange of information is imperative, distrust remains deep. Old geopolitical tensions are not going anywhere; in fact, they may be getting deeper and more bitter. This does not bode well for multilateralism.