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Journalist unions urge Chinese president to allow free movement of foreign media

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), together with journalist organisations across North America and East Asia, have written to Chinese President Xi and Premier Li calling on them to honour the public promise made in the lead-up to the 2008 Olympics to allow a free foreign press in China.

The jointly signed letter draws the Chinese leader's attention to a series of visa incidents involving foreign correspondents working in China.

The letter, co-signed by the heads of the National Writers Union USA, Newspaper Guild-CWA USA, Screen Actors Guild, Hong Kong Journalists Association and Association of Taiwan Journalists, calls on the Chinese leaders to uphold their obligations to defend and implement the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in particular Article 19 which guarantees every one's right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media without interference. China was re-elected as a member of the UN Human Rights Council in November 2013.

Since the beginning of 2014, several members of the foreign press have been denied working visas.

On January 30, New York Times correspondent Austin Ramzy was forced to leave China after his visa application failed to be processed after six months, with no reason being given for the delay. Philip Pan, New York Times' Beijing bureau chief, has been waiting for a visa for more than 18 months.

Another correspondent, Chris Buckley, has been in Hong Kong awaiting a visa for more than a year. In November 2013, Paul Mooney, a veteran correspondent known for reporting human rights issues, was denied a visa after being questioned by consular officials in San Francisco, USA, about his views on politically sensitive issues in China.

In February, two journalists from Taiwan's Apple Daily and Radio Free Asia were excluded from a group of 89 Taiwan journalists who applied for visas to report on the historic four-day nation-to-nation talks in Nanjing between China's Taiwan Affairs Office Director Mr Zhang Zhijun and Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council Chairman Mr Wang Yu-chi. The authorities gave no public explanation for these delays and rejections.

"We trust that this situation can be addressed to respect the right of movement of the foreign press. This allows professional journalists to do their jobs, reporting in a manner that serves the public's right to know. We have been calling on the Chinese authorities to allow journalists to go about their work without fear from harassment and penalties," said IFJ President Jim Boumelha.

"We urge you and other government leaders, and members of the Political Bureau of the Chinese Communist Party to ensure that these rights are upheld in accordance with China's obligations as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, and to ensure that authorities desist from this recent pattern of obstructing and denying the rights of journalists to work and report in China."

The IFJ calls on the Chinese government to respond to the concerns raised in the letter as soon as possible.

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