RSF condemns Chinese curb on reporters during Pacific island tour

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi
China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi pictured with Fiji Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama in Suva this week ... Chinese delegation "clearly contravenes the democratic principles of the region", says RSF. Image: Leon Lord/AFP/RSF

Pacific Media Watch newsdesk

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned a media blackout imposed on events during Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s 10-day tour of Pacific island countries.

Wang is today in Papua New Guinea at the end of an eight-country tour that began on May 26, but a “Chinese state media reporter is so far the only journalist to be allowed to ask him a question”, says the Paris-based global media freedom watchdog.

On the second day of his two days in Fiji this week, “the media briefing itself was run by the visiting government [and] the press passes were issued by the Chinese government,” Fiji journalist Lice Movono told The Guardian.

Movono and her cameraman, and a crew with the Australian TV broadcaster ABC, were prevented from filming a meeting between Wang and the Pacific Islands Forum’s secretary-general shortly after Wang’s arrival in Fiji the day before, although they all had accreditation.

She also observed several attempts by Chinese officials to restrict journalists’ ability to cover the event.

“From the very beginning there was a lot of secrecy, no transparency, no access given,” Movono said.

During Wang’s first stop in the Solomon Islands on May 26, covid restrictions were cited as grounds for allowing only a limited number of media outlets to attend the press conference and only two questions were allowed ­– one to the Solomon Islands’ foreign minister by a local reporter and one to Wang by a Chinese media outlet.

No interaction with the media was allowed during his next two stops in Kiribati and Samoa.

Resist Chinese pressure
“The total opacity surrounding the events organised by the Chinese delegation with several Pacific island states clearly contravenes the democratic principles of the region’s countries,” said Daniel Bastard, head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.

“We call on officials preparing to meet Wang Yi to resist Chinese pressure by allowing local journalists and international organisations to cover these events, which are of major public interest.”

Following the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Samoa and Fiji, Wang visited Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste with the same aim of signing free trade and security agreements.

RSF has previously condemned the Chinese delegation’s discrimination against local and international media during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit held in November 2018 in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, with President Xi Jinping attending.

China is among the world’s worst countries for media freedom, ranked 175th out of 180 nations in the 2022 RSF World Press Freedom Index.

Pacific Media Watch collaborates with Reporters Without Borders.

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