Bloomberg News Self-Censors after Website Blocked and Visas Refused

Camera crewBloomberg News has censored its own China reporting, according to the New York Times. Bloomberg reporters had been working for months on an investigative report detailing the hidden financial ties between one of the wealthiest men in China and the families of top Chinese leaders. But the story was allegedly killed.

Unidentified Bloomberg staff told the Times that editor in chief Matthew Winkler decided not to publish the piece, saying, “If we run the story, we’ll be kicked out of China.” Winkler denies this. Bloomberg managers have since suspended Hong-Kong-based correspondent Michael Forsythe for leaking the editorial decision, the New York Post reports.

There’s been a recent spate of intimidation against foreign journalists in China. In June 2012, Bloomberg News ran a story about the personal wealth of current Communist Party chief Xi Jinping’s family. In October 2012, the New York Times ran a similar story about then-premier Wen Jiabao’s family. Subsequently, the Chinese government has blocked both media organizations’ websites in China and refused to issue J1 visas for new resident journalists.

In addition, reporter Paul Mooney, previously of South China Morning Post, has been just been notified by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that he will not be granted a new J1 visa to work for Thomson Reuters. Mooney says that in April, after submitting his visa application to the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco, he was summoned for an interview, questioned about previous articles, and asked to explain his position on delicate issues like Tibet. “If we give you a visa, we hope you’ll be more balanced with your coverage,” Mooney says he was told at the conclusion of the April interview.

There have been calls for a U.S. government response to. A Wall Street Journal editorial last year encouraged the U.S. to deny visas to Chinese journalists:

Visas and accreditation for Chinese state-run media workers to enter other countries should be contingent on an end to state-sponsored thuggery.

Jim Sciutto, former chief of staff at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, has made the same argument in the Washington Post, as has Mooney, and Hong Kong columnist Frank Ching. And a stalled congressional proposal would revoke the visas of nearly all the 800 or so Chinese journalists in the U.S.

But the Committee to Protect Journalists and the Foreign Correspondents Club of China argue that such legislation would unwisely risk sparking a visa war with China, which could result in the expulsion of more Americans working for commercial media in China and further impair American press coverage of China.

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