Watchdog tells China to ‘stop harassing media’

Stop harassing Swedish journalists, media rights watchdog urged China's embassy in Stockholm, accusing Beijing of trying to censor reporters beyond its borders.

Watchdog tells China to 'stop harassing media'
Ties between Sweden and China have been strained in recent years. Photo: Maja Suslin/TT

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) intervened following the latest in a series of statements by the Chinese embassy in Sweden, this time attacking the news website of the country's public broadcaster SVT.

China's ambassador to Sweden, Gui Congyou, “has embarked on a 'truth' crusade against the country's media since taking office in August 2017”, RSF said in its statement.

Since July 2018, the embassy has denounced multiple Swedish news outlets, including two of its main national dailies, Dagens Nyheter and Svenska Dagbladet, and the news agency TT.

Regional dailies Upsala Nya Tidning and Nya Wermlands-Tidningen, and public sector weekly Dagens Samhälle have also come in for criticism.

“Diplomatic missions have no say in the editorial content of media in their host country,” Erik Halkjaer, the head of RSF Sweden, said.

The embassy's latest statement criticized the SVT website for publishing an opinion piece written by a representative to the Taipei mission on February 27th, calling for support for Taiwanese democracy amid threats from China.

China and Taiwan split after a civil war in 1949, but Beijing still sees the self-ruling island as part of its territory, to be brought back into the fold.

Beijing has stepped up diplomatic pressure on Taiwan since President Tsai Ing-wen took office in 2016, as she has refused to acknowledge its “one China” policy.

Cedric Alviani, the head of RSF's East Asia bureau, said China's attacks on Swedish media “reveal the unrestrained attitude with which Beijing is now trying to impose its censorship outside its borders”.

RSF recalled that China is the world's biggest jailer of journalists, with more than 60 currently detained, while Sweden ranked second in the RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

Ties between Sweden and China have been strained in recent years, following the detention of publisher Gui Minhai, a Chinese-born Swede who vanished into Chinese custody in January 2018 under murky circumstances.

China also lodged a diplomatic complaint in September 2018 accusing Swedish police of treating Chinese tourists “brutally” after a family was ejected from a Stockholm hotel.

Following that incident, a Swedish satirical current affairs programme on SVT poked fun at China, prompting Beijing to demand an apology and accusing it of racism.

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