White House grants visas to Chinese reporters to attend the United Nations

On Monday, the White House announced that the U.S. would grant visa waivers to Chinese reporters from state-controlled media outlets. These “transactions” come in response to the signing of a deal in Hanoi last week that allows American journalists to cover China while also granting access to prominent dissident journalists. American journalists wanting to cover the country have faced a number of obstacles, including visa requirements, misinformation from Chinese state-owned outlets, and threats of reprisal.

“We took note of the Treasury Department decision and look forward to a reciprocal decision by the Department of Justice that the penalties levied against a U.S. journalist who has received an award for courage and integrity are no longer to apply to the applicant,” White House spokesman Raj Shah said in a statement.

The agreement also allows for limited government-funded press access to Chinese outlets, and allows foreign reporters to work in the country with approval from Chinese authorities. It appears to be the result of a diplomatic tussle between the Chinese and American governments, with the White House’s decision to accede to Beijing’s request for foreign media freedom accompanied by condemnation of China’s clampdown on freedom of the press from the Committee to Protect Journalists.

China has long been a problem for both U.S. and global media organizations, with Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranking it 47th in terms of press freedom. According to RCS, “Chinese media is dominated by state-owned interests that produce propaganda for a population that is as sensitive to any suggestion that criticism of the party is even possible as it is to loud criticism of it.”

But the deal between the White House and China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs—which they claim is only “the first step” in reaching a broader agreement on press freedom—may mark a turning point. Previous press freedom accords between the two countries have not been carried out with great frequency. It remains to be seen whether the US can persuade more Chinese media outlets to agree to the same terms and conditions as its own reporters.

This post has been updated.

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