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Bloomberg Abandons “Politically Risky Reporting on China”

Protestors in Paris (Pic. courtesy RSF)

Even as French citizens and international press freedom monitor Reporters without Borders (RSF/RWB) mounted protests against visiting Chinese president, Xi Jinping in Paris, US financial news giant Bloomberg decided the “company was abandoning politically risky reporting on China.”

Freedom House reported that Peter Grauer, chairman of Bloomberg LP speaking in Hong Kong, Thursday, said, “[t]hat the sheer size of the Chinese economy meant that ‘we have to be there.'”

The move follows reporting by Bloomberg journalists in 2012 of massive wealth accumulated by the relatives of then president designate Xi. China retaliated by blocking the site, which was a huge financial loss to Bloomberg. Bloomberg’s biggest source of income is its financial data service, which was now barred from customers in the world’s second largest economy.
Before Thursday’s announcement, Bloomberg unexpectedly pulled out an investigation in late 2013 on Wang Jianlin, China’s richest man, and Communist Party leaders. Matthew Winkler, Bloomberg’s editor-in-chief reportedly told in a conference call “Bloomberg could be ‘kicked out of China’ if it ran the piece.”
In a hard-hitting critique of Bloomberg’s course of action Freedom House said, “Elite corruption, the topic that Bloomberg seems to have specifically shied away from, is perhaps the most volatile and important factor of all, affecting company performance, government functions, and social stability. Businesspeople and other readers will want to know if a company must buy influence and protection from officials, navigate a market warped by corruption-driven spending priorities, or weather eruptions of public anger at official graft.”
Meanwhile in the high-visibility protest in Paris on Thursday, five trucks with photomontages of Xi giving the finger were to be driven near the city’s iconic landmarks to emblemise the Chinese president’s contempt for freedom of information in his country.
“The disconnect between the official discourse about the Chinese dream and the ruthless persecution of independent journalists shows the degree to which Xi Jinping is making fun of the world,” RSF’s secretary general, Christophe Deloire said.
“Article 35 of China’s constitution says that its citizens enjoy ‘freedom of speech [and] of the press,’ but more than 100 Chinese citizens – professional journalists and netizens – are currently in prison simply for trying to report the country’s reality,” he said.
However of the five trucks, four were stopped before entering the city, although one passed in front of the Eiffel Tower. Activists on bicycles weaving the smaller versions of the banner were also in the procession, RSF said.  

New York Times, Bloomberg To Be Expelled From China

US VP Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping  (Washington Post)  

Two US-based media organisations – the New York Times and Bloomberg News – could be expelled from China with Beijing refusing to renew work visas of their journalists. Recent articles by both highlighted issues of corruption and nepotism among China’s elite.

Although in the past China has delayed or denied individual journalists visas this is the first time entire staff of the two institutions have been asked to leave.
“Twenty four foreign journalists working for the New York Times and Bloomberg could be forced to leave China in the coming weeks after officials stalled over renewing their visas,” said Malcolm Moore, in the UK Guardianwriting from Beijing.
This was confirmed by David Nakamura in the Washington Post. He said “Ian Johnson, a New York Times writer based in China, wrote on Twitter: ‘China is about to expel all NYT and Bloomberg correspondents from China – unprecedented. Biden raised issue with Xi.'”
The reference is to US Vice President Joe Biden who is in Beijing at the moment as part of an East Asian tour. He was expected to raise controversial issues such as China’s designation of a Air Defence Identification Zone over the disputed islands in the South China Sea, before the issue of the journalists’ expulsion surfaced.
The Post reported that Biden who met a group of mostly American journalists privately where he said he had brought up the matter with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Biden also registered his displeasure about Chinese intimidation of journalists at a bilateral meeting a day earlier: “‘Innovation thrives where people breathe freely, speak freely, are able to challenge orthodoxy, where newspapers can report the truth without fear of consequences,’ Biden said during his remarks. ‘We have many disagreements, and some profound disagreements, on some of those issues right now, in the treatment of U.S. journalists. But I believe China will be stronger and more stable and more innovative if it respects universal human rights,” reported the Post.     
The move to deny journalists visas, appears to be in retaliation for articles published earlier by The Times and Bloomberg on financial corruption. Said Moore, “[a]n article last October exposing the secret £1.65 billion fortune of the family of the then prime minister, Wen Jiabao, enraged the Chinese government, which has since censored both the English and Chinese websites and denied journalist visas for two incoming staff.”
On November 17, the New York Times carried an article on Bloomberg’s chief editor, Matthew Winkler, killing a story by one of the organisation’s Hong Kong-based staffers Michael Forsythe who was also suspended for working on an investigative story on a Chinese billionaire. The Times said, “Winkler had decided to kill “an investigative article because of fears that Bloomberg would be expelled from China.” Please see this blog’s post here.
Meanwhile, this blogin a posting on November 13 titled ‘US Media Moghuls Helping China Export Repression?’ highlighted an article in The Atlantic titled ‘Legitimising the ‘Civilized Internet’: China’s Seduction of U.S. Media’ highlighted the journal discussing a meeting of the Presidium of the World Media Summit in October. The WMS is the brainchild of the Chinese Communist Party but has among the members of its top decision-making body a number of US media companies including The New York Times, Google, Associated Press, as well as the BBC, Al Jazeera and others.
The Atlantic suggests that one of the reasons these organisations are in the presidium is to improve the penetration of their media businesses into China. The New York Times, BBC, Google and CNN websites have been blocked on and off in China in the past and reporters from The Times and Al Jazeera not granted visas to enter the Chinese mainland.