Al Jazeera is the employer of Beijing correspondent Melissa Chan, whose press visa was rescinded. Instead of sending in a replacement reporter, as it could have done, the private news channel closed its Beijing bureau.

While an advocate of press freedom (which I strongly supported alongside their correspondents in Peshawar and Islamabad at the start of the Afghan War), Al Jazeera has since the recent past fallen down as a standard bearer for balance in its coverage of news events.

The Doha-based news channel has come under increasing criticism for its politicized, even jingoistic editorial bias in favor of Islamist insurgencies in Libya and Syria and for alleged faking of news events. Its coverage of the Urumchi disturbances was unblinkingly one-sided.

In April 2011, during the Arab Spring uprisings, its Beijing Arabic correspondent Ezzat Sharour slammed the Chinese media for not voicing overt support for the Islamist insurgents in Libya, which included groups affiliated with Al Qaeda.

Al Jazeera is privately owned by the Emir of Qatar, head of a government that traditionally provides safe haven to organizations on the U.S. terrorism list.

Prior to the visa denial, however, Al Jazeera did not report significant complaints against official interference  of its reporting activities in China.

Its relationship with the U.S. government, in contrast, has been quite hostile.

In 2001, the U.S. Air Force bombed Al Jazeera headquarters in Afghanistan.

The White House under President George Bush also seriously considered an air strike against Al Jazeera’s Doha headquarters.

Since the time of that threat, Al Jazeera turned toward a collaborative approach with the West and Israel.

The departure of Melissa Chan and her employer from Beijing has been criticized in some quarters as a sign of deteriorating press freedom in China.

That remains to be seen and will be judged on whether credible and balanced journalists can continue to work in China.

Many of the criticisms are coming from American media.

To set the record straight, a comparative look needs to be taken at how the United States, a country that boasts of its press freedom and finances monitoring of media policies in foreign countries.

It ironically has one of the worst records in suppressing media access and press freedom.

The infamous Black List of the McCarthy era was not an aberration but a standard feature of repression of press freedom that continues in the U.S.

The lists below are only a tiny sampling, a fraction of the hundreds of foreign journalists, writers and artists.

– Selected by Yoichi Shimatsu, former lecturer at University of Hong Kong journalism school

 

Journalists Barred Entry into the United States

Robert Fisk of The Independent, 2005, on a flight from Canada..

Mohammed Omer, Palestinian journalist and founder of Intifada.neta and winner of the Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, 2010 on his way to Chicago. On his return to Gaza, he was detained without warrant and beaten by Shin Bet agents.

Elena Lappin, Jewish British journalist, 2004, for not obtaining an I-visa for visiting foreign journalists In the same year 12 other foreign journalists were barred entering the U.S.

Adam Habib, South African news commentator and professor, October 2006.

 

Journalists in U.S. prisons

14 journalists were detained at federal holding centers, including Guantanamo, between 2004 and 2010, with several subjected to torture.

 

Journalists killed by the U.S..military in Iraq (a brief sampling, not counting cameramen)

Qomran Abdul  Razzaq, 2003, air strike

Ahmad Kareem, 2003, shot in raid on office of Kurdistan Satellite Channel

Mahmood Ahmad Hawadi, 2004, Al Jazeera editor, shot during attack on Fallujah

Ali Al0Khateeb, Al-Arabiya correspondent, 2004shot in Baghdad

Asad Kadim, Iraqiya news reporter, 2004 shot in Baghdad

Hayder Kadhim, Walid Ibrahim, 2005, Reuters stalked and shot by helicopter gunship

 

Journalists and Writers Deported from the United States

Charlie Brown, Jamaican author and US Army veteran, 2004 after  unlawfully conviction in Florida for resisting arrest without violence.. Brown is author of the book “The Jamaican Deportees.”

CLR James, Trinidad journalist and political theorist, deported in 1954.

Emma Goldman, essayist and anarchist activist, deported to Russia in 1919, along with dozens of other dissenting journalists and editors.

 

Artists deported from the U.S.

Charlie Chaplin, British actor and director; denied re-entry permit to the U.S. in the 1950s on orders from FBI director J. Edgar Hoover..

Rosaura Revueltas, Mexican film actress, deported o Mexico during filming of “Salt of the Earth” in 1954.

Johanna Gadski, German operatic soprano singer, declared an enemy alien and deported during World War I

 

 Yoichi Shimatsu
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