Chinese state media has unleashed a scathing attack on Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton after he warned the government will crack down on “slanted views” from foreign journalists.
The Global Times, an outlandish mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China, lashed out at Mr Dutton and the Australian government, accusing it of driving press freedom out of the country and replacing its democratic freedom with “white terror”.
The opinion piece comes amid the latest dispute between the two countries, this time centred around journalists from both nations.
Two Australian correspondents in China fled the nation last week after they were subject to questioning from authorities – a move which is feared to be a tit-for-tat response to four Chinese journalists being interrogated in Australia as part of investigations into coercion diplomacy.
While Mr Dutton’s comments made on the ABC’s Insiders didn’t directly mention China, it was widely perceived as a warning to Beijing.
"If people are masquerading as journalists or business leaders or whoever they might be, and there's evidence that they are acting in a contrary nature to Australian law, then ASIO and the Australian Federal Police and other agencies will act,” he said.
‘Slap in the face’ for democracy in Australia
Global times journalist Li Qingqing hit back, insisting Mr Dutton’s comments were a “slap in the face” for democracy and press freedom in Australia.
“So-called "press freedom" has become a pawn manipulated by political cronies in Canberra,” Li said.
“What kind of "free" country attacks press freedom from behind using the big stick of political suppression to destroy views that it hates?”
The Global Times stressed Chinese journalists in Australia “uphold professional ethics” and enhance bilateral understanding and relations.
Mr Dutton said journalists would be “fine” if they’re “reporting fairly on the news”.
His comments weren’t too dissimilar to those from Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian last week when questioned on the exit of ABC’s Bill Birtles and the AFR’s Michael Smith.
“China protects the legitimate rights and interests of news reporters and editors in accordance with the law, but journalists are also obliged to abide by Chinese laws and regulations,” he said.
“As long as foreign journalists abide by the law and report according to regulations, there is no need for them to have any worries.”
Mr Zhao said Australia had yet given “reasonable explanation” as to why Chinese journalists were searched and had items confiscated.
The Global Times, part of a strictly controlled media in China’s totalitarian regime, said Australia was “openly abandoning” Western ideologies surrounding democracy and a right to speak.
“If news and other fields are gradually reduced to Australia's political pawns, then the country will eventually be flooded with "white terror,” the report said.
Do you have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.