The Japanese government lodged a protest with China after a Sankei Shimbun reporter was barred from covering the initial phase of a meeting in Beijing between Chinese Foreign Minister Wan Yi, who is concurrently a state councilor, and Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Takeo Akiba.
Chinese government authorities on Wednesday, August 29, refused to let The Sankei Shimbun participate in pool media, leading the Japan Press Association in Beijing — comprised of reporters from major Japanese newspapers and news agencies based in China’s capital — to boycott the news-gathering activities at the outset of the Wan-Akiba talks.
The association declared it could never accept the Chinese act of depriving a specific news organization of a reporting opportunity. Japanese TV crews in Beijing followed suit.
In Tokyo on Thursday, August 30, government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told journalists:
The Japanese government believes that respect for basic human rights, including freedom of expression, is a universal value in the international community, and ensuring those rights is important in any country. From this viewpoint, it is extremely regrettable that this kind of affair happened, and we have lodged a protest to the Chinese side.
The Sankei Shimbun filed a written protest on the matter with the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs later the same day. Sankei denounced the Chinese government’s interference in the newspaper’s Japanese news pool duties, saying it was a behavior unjustifiably obstructive of lawful news-gathering activities.
The Japan Press Association was scheduled to cover the beginning of the Wan-Akiba meeting in a news pool format. The day before, on August 28, reporters from The Sankei Shimbun and Nihon Keizai Shimbun (Nikkei) had been chosen as Japanese media representatives for the pool coverage and the Chinese Foreign Ministry was notified of the decision through the Japanese embassy in Beijing.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry, for its part, informed the Japanese embassy later the same day that the Chinese side “cannot allow a Sankei reporter to join the news coverage activities.” Efforts were made to resolve the situation, but the Chinese side refused to reconsider its position.
Back in June, when the Japan Press Association planned to send a press group to the Tibet Autonomous Region, the Chinese authorities also rejected Sankei’s participation. The association then called off the planned coverage, saying the Chinese action was unacceptable from the viewpoint of “freedom of the press and expression.”
In March, the Chinese government also refused to allow The Sankei Shimbun to attend a news conference by Premier Li Keqiang held after the closing of the National People’s Congress, China’s parliament. The same authorities also prevented Sankei’s participation in 2017.
Fumihiko Iguchi, managing editor of The Sankei Shimbun’s editorial department and concurrently an executive officer of the newspaper, issued the following statement:
The act of the Chinese authorities denying a Sankei reporter’s application for participating in news pool coverage is unjustifiable obstruction of news-gathering activities. We condemn over the measure, vowing that it should never be overlooked.
In recent years, Chinese authorities have tightened their control over media from Japan and other countries, as shown by the cancellation of plans in June to send the Japanese press corps to the Tibet Autonomous Region because of China’s rejection of a Sankei reporter’s participation in the press delegation. The act of expelling specific media can never be acceptable.
We are resolved to take the utmost effort and do our best to continue reporting the current circumstances of China to our readers with accuracy.
Kinya Fujimoto, Beijing bureau chief of The Sankei Shimbun, and Yoshiaki Nishimi, The Sankei Shimbun Beijing bureau correspondent contributed to this article.