Foreign minister promises new press procedure after China visit mix up

Foreign minister announces that future accreditation for opposition press organisations will no longer have to be approved by their embassy

A series of press mishaps that occurred during the recent visit of Chinese president Hu Jintao will result in changes to the way foreign media are approved to cover such visits in the future, the Foreign Ministry announced yesterday.

The changes come after Chinese-language TV station, NTDTV, which is based in New York, was refused permission to participate in the press conferences involving the Chinese delegation.

Prior to Hu's heavily covered visit, NTDTV, which is critical of the Chinese government, was informed by the Foreign Ministry that it had to apply for accreditation through the Chinese embassy, even though it was not based in China.

The accreditation application was denied on the grounds that NTDTV was founded by the outlawed Falun Gong religious movement.

Apologising for the situation, the foreign minister, Villy Søvndal, said his ministry, which issues press accreditation for state visits, is working on a new procedure to avoid similar errors in the future.

“I don’t think it was appropriate that NTDTV was referred to the Chinese embassy in its attempts to secure accreditation, and I have requested that the accreditation procedure be changed to avoid similar incidents in the future,” Søvndal wrote to parliament.

According to Søvndal, NTDTV was actually granted accreditation by the Foreign Ministry’s International Press Centre (IPC), but another error meant that it never received word.

“By a mistake, the accreditation cards were not delivered to NTDTV. This was unfortunate, but I have been informed that the IPC has already established a new and clearer protocol,” Søvndal wrote. “It entails that all accredited journalists will, in the future, be directly notified whether their request for accreditation has been granted, and all cards will be directly delivered by the IPC.”

Another consequence of the Chinese visit was that accreditation for press outlets that are critical of their government will not have to go through their embassy, something that will prevent officials from attempting to quiet opposition voices.

The NTD accreditation incident was not the only irregularity that accompanied the visit of the Chinese delegation. A Danish journalist was arrested and jailed for several hours for attempting to hang a poster that was critical of China, while a peaceful Falun Gong demonstration at Højbro Plads square was screened off by the police to prevent the Chinese delgation from seeing it.

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