China takes aim at 4 US media companies, demanding staff, business info

China says the U.S. is suppressing the media outlets and seeks retaliatory action

China has demanded information regarding staff and business operations from four major U.S. media outlets in retaliation to the U.S. government previously requesting similar information from China state owned media agencies.

The Associated Press, United Press International (UPI), CBS and National Public Radio (NPR) have seven days to file declarations regarding their staff, financial operations, real estate ownership and various other operations, according to Chinese Foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian Wednesday.

Zhao pointed to the Department of State’s designation of nine Chinese media outlets as “foreign missions”, alleging that they are mouthpieces for Beijing in late June, as justification for the announcement.

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“It should be pointed out that the above-mentioned measures by China are completely necessary countermeasures and are completely legitimate defenses compelled by unreasonable suppression of the U.S. side on Chinese media agencies in the United States,” Zhao said at a daily briefing.

The China Central Television, the China News Service, the People’s Daily and the Global Times were designated as “propaganda outlets” by the U.S. government.

“This designation recognizes PRC [People’s Republic of China] propaganda outlets as foreign missions and increases transparency relating to the CCP [Communist Party of China] and PRC  government’s media activities in the United States,” the State Department said in a statement last month.

The U.S. agency also said that the designation does not prevent or prohibit content that the media outlets are able to produce.

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But Zhao noted in a press conference Wednesday that the new U.S. policies affecting these media outlets has damaged their reputation and the image of Chinese media -- adding that the policies are reminiscent of “Cold War” era stances and damage the freedom of the press.

“China urges the U.S. to immediately change its course and correct its mistakes and stop the political suppression and unreasonable restrictions of the Chinese media,” Zhao said.

The Chinese media outlets are reportedly not being encouraged to leave the U.S., nor are there any limitations being placed on their production. But some visa restrictions were enforced on five Chinese media outlets in March, limiting the number of staff they can have in the U.S.

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State run media outlets such as the Xinhua News Agency and CCTV, the international arm of state broadcaster, have had their visas restricted from 160 to 100 visas – meaning 60 Chinese employees had to leave the U.S.

Over a dozen American reporters for the Washington Post, New York Times and Wall Street Journal were, in turn, forced to leave China.

The Department of State could not be immediately reached to comment on this latest development with China.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.