US rebukes China after BuzzFeed reporter’s visa denial

China has stringent censorship and control over what media reports in the country. (AFP)
Updated 24 August 2018
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US rebukes China after BuzzFeed reporter’s visa denial

  • Megha Rajagopalan, who is American and had been in China for six years, was effectively forced out of the country
  • Rajagopalan said on Twitter that the reasons for the government’s decision to deny her a visa extension remain unclear

BEIJING: The United States is “deeply concerned” about China’s treatment of foreign and domestic journalists, the US embassy said Friday, after Chinese authorities declined to renew the visa of BuzzFeed News’s Beijing bureau chief.
Megha Rajagopalan, who is American and had been in China for six years, was effectively forced out of the country after officials decided not to extend her journalist visa.
She has reported extensively on China’s security crackdown in the far-west region of Xinjiang, where hundreds of thousands of mostly Muslim ethnic Uighurs are believed to be held in internment camps.
“The United States is deeply concerned that foreign and domestic journalists in China continue to face excessive restrictions that impede their ability to do their jobs,” the US embassy said in a statement to AFP in response to questions about Rajagopalan’s case.
Reporters face “delays in processing foreign journalist visas, overboard restrictions on travel to certain locations deemed ‘sensitive’ by Chinese authorities and, in some cases, violence at the hands of local authorities,” it said.
Rajagopalan said on Twitter that the reasons for the government’s decision to deny her a visa extension remain unclear, with authorities telling her it was a “process thing.”
China’s foreign ministry played down the decision during a regular press briefing on Thursday, telling reporters that “this problem of a visa being ‘canceled’ doesn’t exist.”
“She is not like you, she was never a resident journalist in China,” foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said, referring to the fact that Rajagopalan had worked in China on a six-month renewable visa rather than the one-year visa given to most journalists posted in the country.
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China said in a statement Wednesday that Rajagopalan had “conducted herself according to the highest journalistic standards while in China.”
The foreign ministry “declined to give a clear and transparent reason for denying her a visa,” it added, accusing authorities of “effectively ejecting” Rajagopalan from China.
But in an editorial about the government’s decision, nationalist tabloid the Global Times lashed out at Rajagopalan for what it described as “distorted reports” about the government’s treatment of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.
“Some Western media outlets believe they are entitled to do whatever they want, but such nonsense is unacceptable,” it said, adding that “relevant agencies in China are not going to step aside and do nothing when it comes to Western media’s treatment of China.”
It is not the first time that a foreign journalist has been denied a new visa.
Al-Jazeera reporter Melissa Chan had to leave China in 2012 after authorities refused to renew her visa.
At the end of 2015 French reporter Ursula Gauthier was forced to leave the country after she criticized government policy in Xinjiang and the authorities refused to renew her credentials.


Facebook accused of discrimination with job ad targeting

Updated 19 September 2018
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Facebook accused of discrimination with job ad targeting

  • It charges that job ads on Facebook targeted male users only
  • Facebook lets advertisers target ads on the basis of gender and age, which is against the law in America

WASHINGTON: A complaint has been filed with the US government accusing Facebook and 10 other companies of using the platform’s job ad targeting system to discriminate on the basis of gender.
The complaint was announced Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union, a union called the Communications Workers of America and a labor law firm, on behalf of three female job seekers and a group of “thousands” of members represented by the union.
It charges that job ads on Facebook targeted male users only. It also alleges that most of the listings were for jobs in male-dominated fields, so women and non-binary users were excluded from seeing these ads.
Facebook lets advertisers target ads on the basis of gender and age, which is against the law in America, the complaint reads.
“I shouldn’t be shut out of the chance to hear about a job opportunity just because I am a woman,” said Bobbi Spees, one of the three women named in the complaint.
Facebook spokesman Joe Osborne said in a statement to CNNMoney that there is no place for discrimination on Facebook.
“It’s strictly prohibited in our policies, and over the past year we’ve strengthened our systems to further protect against misuse,” Osborne said.
Facebook will defend itself once it has reviewed the complaint, he added.
The ACLU noted that online platforms such as Facebook are generally not liable for content published by others.
“But in this case, Facebook is doing much more than merely publishing content created by others,” the advocacy group argued.
“It has built the architecture for this discriminatory marketing framework, enabled and encouraged advertisers to use it, and delivered the gender-based ads according to employers’ sex-based preferences.”
Last month the US Department of Housing and Urban Development accused Facebook of breaking the law by letting landlords and home sellers use its ad-targeting system to discriminate against potential buyers or tenants.
Facebook responded by cutting more than 5,000 ad-targeting options to prevent advertisers from discriminating on the basis of traits such as religion or race.