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Two Polish journalists "blacklisted", denied visas

(IPI/IFEX) - Vienna, 5 July 2010 - A second Polish journalist has been refused a visa for China, three months after his colleague was also "blacklisted" and denied entry into the country.

Konrad Godlewski, 34, a freelance journalist commissioned by Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland's largest daily newspaper, was denied entry to China for the China-Europe Forum in Chengdu from 7-11 July, despite having been officially invited to take part by the organisers, the Europe China Foundation. He had applied for his visa in mid-June, and it was refused on 29 June. He was given no explanation beyond the fact that he had been blacklisted by Chinese authorities in Beijing. No reason for his blacklisting was given.

Godlewski, who had worked on the staff of Gazeta Wyborcza from 2002-2005, and for the Polish Press Agency, and had visited the country without incident previously. He had specialised in covering China and had spent time studying the language in Beijing.

"This is a tragedy for me," he told IPI on Monday. "My idea for my career was to specialise in China. My dream was to be a correspondent there. Now I feel like a fisherman whose boat has been stolen."

Godlewski believes his blacklisting may have been sparked by an interview in May between Wang Lixiong, a prominent Chinese writer and critic of China's Tibetan policy, and the Dalai Lama in New York, which he translated for Gazeta Wyborcza.

The rejection of Godlewski's visa application comes just three months after another Polish journalist, Maria Kruczkowska, was also denied a visa for China. Kruczowska, who has reported on China for Gazeta Wyborcza for the past 11 years, was denied a visa for China for the World Expo in Shanghai in May, nine days before the event was due to start, despite applying in January.

Kruczkowska had also travelled several times to China without incident but was placed on a blacklist for journalists by authorities in Beijing after a critical article she wrote about China and the Olympic Games in 2008 appeared on the front page of Gazeta Wyborcza.

Kruczkowska, who is one year away from retirement, told IPI: "This will affect my work radically. I cannot write reports without visiting the country . . . I am close to retirement, why make a fuss?

"We don't know if it is a just problem with me or our daily [newspaper]."

Speaking following the second visa refusal, IPI board member and Gazeta Wyborcza Deputy Editor-in-Chief Piotr Stasinski said: "It's deeply surprising that the Chinese authorities - though they seemingly declare to broaden good relationships with the outside world, and with the European Union in particular, and though the Chinese government promotes Chinese investment in the EU - deny visas to journalists from Poland, an EU member.

"Maria Kruczkowska and Konrad Godlewski are both very knowledgeable reporters, experienced in covering modern China issues and developments.

"Chinese authorities consistently oppose any form of meddling in internal affairs of other countries, and declare mutual respect for other countries' values. However, denying entry to foreign journalists, and - even more so - blacklisting them, amount to profound harming of the press freedom which is a widely shared and important value of democratic world."

IPI Press Freedom Manager Anthony Mills said: "We expect China to abide by universal press freedom values. This includes allowing foreign journalists to cover developments inside China, just as Chinese journalists should be allowed to cover events elsewhere in the world. Maria Kruczkowska and Konrad Godlewski are apparently being denied entry into China because they are associated with pieces of journalism critical of the Chinese authorities. We urge China to refrain from blacklisting journalists because of their work and to allow them access to the country so that they can continue to inform the public."

A spokesperson for the Consular Office at the Chinese Embassy in Poland told IPI that the Chinese authorities are not obliged to reveal why journalists are placed on "the list".

Covering events in China has been consistently difficult for foreign journalists, despite a brief liberalising of the strict regulations during the Olympics in 2008, when, following pressure from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the international community, China adopted regulations granting foreign journalists freedom of movement and freedom to interview whoever they wanted.

These regulations were followed, however, by a spate of attacks against foreign journalists (338 cases between 1 January 2007 and the end of 2008, according to the Foreign Correspondents Club of China, or FCCC); and restrictions on Chinese citizens' contact with foreign journalists. Families of Chinese human rights victims have been forbidden from talking to the media.

The FCCC reported that at least 10 foreign journalists received anonymous death threats in 2008.

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