Media & Internet

Melissa Chan

Journalist, Al Jazeera America | United States

The canary in the coal mine for China’s tightening restrictions on hard-hitting foreign reporting.

Chinese President Xi Jinping surprised onlookers at a November press conference when he blamed foreign media outlets such as the New York Times for their own difficulties procuring Chinese visas for their journalists. But Beijing’s hard stance against foreign journalists started back in May 2012, when it refused to renew Al Jazeera correspondent Melissa Chan’s visa or press credentials. The move made Chan, a veteran correspondent who had reported on China’s extrajudicial system of “black jails,” the first foreign journalist to be expelled from China since 1998.

Chan’s visa denial seemed to herald a new era of difficulty for foreign media in China; Chinese censors blocked access to Bloomberg’s website the next month, and the New York Times site in October of the same year. The issue has even strained bilateral relations. In his December 2013 visit to Beijing, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden publicly criticized China’s restrictions on foreign journalists.