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LinkAsia | Jan 25
Nicknamed "Big Eyes", Li Chengpeng is a crusading former reporter whose books have sold millions of copies in China. But Li's fame was not enough t...
So what Chinese rules and regulations did Melissa Chan actually break? Here to try and answer those questions and tell us more about this incident and the general climate for reporters in China, we've called Madeline Earp, a researcher for the New York based Committee to Protect Journalists, as she joins us via skype. Madeline, welcome to LinkAsia.
Madeline Earp, Committee to Protect Journalists:
Thank you for having me.
So, last Tuesday 14 out of the 18 questions asked during the Chinese Foreign Ministry's briefing had to do with Chan's expulsion. Did he explain what she did wrong?
You know, Hong Lei, the spokesperson at the briefing, actually did a great job of not explaining exactly what Melissa Chan had done. He referred to many relevant rules and regulations without actually specifying a single one that had been broken. So he answered a whole lot of questions but we got very little information from them.
So it sounds like we really don't have any idea what got her into trouble.
That's absolutely right, and that's one of the reasons why it's such a threat to other journalists who don't know where the line is to cross. You can't avoid it. We've heard speculations that Al Jazeera produced a documentary that was aired in November 2011 about Chinese forced labor camps, maybe that was what set them off. Maybe it was Melissa Chan's own reporting. She's done an excellent job of covering a number of sensitive human rights issues since she's been based in Beijing.
Hong Lei also said foreign journalists enjoy what he called a very free reporting environment in China. So what do you think: have things loosened up there?
Things have not loosened up, and I would go further to say that journalists in China, whether they work for foreign news outlets or domestic, have never enjoyed a free reporting environment. It's something that the foreign ministry has repeated over and over again, and it doesn't get any truer. In fact, particularly in the last couple of years, when journalists were covering the Jasmine Revolution, when they had been covering human rights activists like Chen Guangcheng recently, there have been a number of attacks and harassment aimed at foreign journalists. They've threatened to have their visas revoked but it's never actually happened until this instance.
Well certainly Melissa Chan isn't the only aggressive reporter in China. There have been plenty of hard-hitting articles written -- most recently on the blind dissident Chen Guangcheng. So was Melissa Chan's expulsion, you think, as you mentioned before, aimed at her colleagues in the foreign press corps? Like you said, a warning?
It's been a tumultuous year in China and there's been a lot of aggressive reporting on Chen Guangcheng and on the fallen party leader in Chongqing, Bo Xilai. Who knows, honestly, if any one particular report pushed them over the edge in this case. I think what's true to say is it will have a chilling effect on other news outlets who are seeking to operate out of Beijing. That's very concerning for us, and it's concerning for other journalists who are coming in from Hong Kong and Macau, and also domestic journalists. The fact that this is an expulsion that has not taken place for such a long time and that they've finally chosen to make that message really clear by sending them away, I mean that's a concern for everyone who works for the media in China, I think.
Thanks so much for joining us Madeline. You can learn more about Madeline Earp on our experts page.