March 17, 2020

U.S. journalists are being kicked out of China, and the timing couldn't be worse.

China announced Tuesday it would revoke press credentials from journalists from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, barring them from working in the country. The ban even extends to Hong Kong, and comes in retaliation for the Trump administration's decision to limit the number of workers China could have in its U.S. branches of its state-run media.

American journalists working those three outlets who have press cards expiring before the end of the year will have to hand over their credentials within 10 days, China demanded Tuesday. They "will not be allowed to continue working as journalists" in China or the special administration regions of Hong Kong and Macao, China's statement said. In addition, they, along with journalists from Time magazine and Voice of America, have also been told to reveal information about their organizations.

China said its move is made "in the spirit of reciprocity" after the U.S. declared China's five top state-run media agencies to be operatives of the government. The decision, made in February, places the media under similar scrutiny faced by foreign diplomats.

The expulsion is especially problematic seeing as China is still the epicenter of the now-global COVID-19 pandemic. The country's stringent orders of isolation seem to have finally stymied spread of the virus, but with fewer legitimate media sources in the country, it could be harder to tell how true that is. Kathryn Krawczyk

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