The National Security Council blasted the Chinese Communist Party on Tuesday for expelling journalists from the country and spreading false information about the origin of the virus instead of focusing on stopping the virus, which originated in China.
“The Chinese Communist Party’s decision to expel journalists from China and Hong Kong is yet another step toward depriving the Chinese people and the world of access to true information about China,” the NSC said in a statement. “The United States calls on China’s leaders to refocus their efforts from expelling journalists and spreading disinformation to joining all nations in stopping the Wuhan coronavirus.”
The statement from the NSC comes after China announced it would expel American journalists working for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal.
“It also demanded that those outlets, as well as the Voice of America and Time magazine, provide the Chinese government with detailed information about their operations,” The New York Times reported. “The announcement went on to say that the American journalists now working in mainland China ‘will not be allowed to continue working as journalists in the People’s Republic of China, including its Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Regions.’ The two territories are semiautonomous and in theory have greater press freedoms than the mainland.”
“I regret China’s decision today to further foreclose the world’s ability to conduct free press operations that frankly would be really good for the Chinese people,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters. “This is unfortunate. I hope they’ll reconsider.”
Dean Baquet, the executive editor of the Times, condemned China’s actions, saying that it was “especially irresponsible at a time when the world needs the free and open flow of credible information about the coronavirus pandemic.”
Martin Baron, executive editor of The Washington Post, said, “We unequivocally condemn any action by China to expel U.S. reporters. The Chinese government’s decision is particularly regrettable because it comes in the midst of an unprecedented global crisis, when clear and reliable information about the international response to covid-19 is essential. Severely limiting the flow of that information, which China now seeks to do, only aggravates the situation.”
Matt Murray, editor in chief of the Journal, said in a tweet: “China’s unprecedented attack on freedom of the press comes at a time of unparalleled global crisis. Trusted news reporting from and about China has never been more important. We oppose government interference with a free press anywhere in the world. Our commitment to reporting fully and deeply on China is unchanged.”
— WSJ Communications (@WSJPR) March 17, 2020
China has launched a desperate propaganda campaign aimed at spreading false information about the origins of the coronavirus.
Elizabeth C. Economy, a senior fellow and director of Asia studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, told The Times, “The danger for Xi Jinping is that as the virus spreads globally, the role that China’s system of governance played in delaying a timely response will face growing scrutiny and criticism from the international community,” adding that the propaganda was “a last-ditch effort by Xi to deflect blame and avoid a demand by the international community for an honest accounting of what actually transpired.”
This report has been updated to include additional information.