'Why Not?' Blinken Becomes Butt of Snowden's Sarcasm for Slamming China 'Intimidating Journalists'
12:48 GMT 30.07.2021 (Updated: 13:06 GMT 30.07.2021)
Edward Snowden, a former computer intelligence consultant from the US, blew the lid off several global surveillance programmes that raised questions over individual privacy in 2013. Since then, he has been targeted by the US authorities and has been vocal against the use of advanced spyware, like Pegasus, for state-sponsored surveillance.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken became a target of sarcasm after he raised concern on Friday over the "increasing trend of surveillance, harassment and intimidation of foreign journalists in China". Edward Snowden, who is known to be at the receiving end of US pressure for leaking sensitive information on NSA surveillance programmes, took to Twitter to question Blinken over his silence on the Pegasus snooping scandal
involving the US' "close partners in Israel".
Edward Snowden, who in 2013 blew the whistle on secret mass surveillance programmes of the US National Security Agency, has called for governments across the globe to impose a moratorium on the international spyware trade or face a world in which no mobile phone is safe from state-sponsored hackers.
Responding to Blinken's "deep concerns", Snowden suggested that the US should influence its "close partners in Israel" who have been exposed in the Pegasus project.
Earlier in July, a group of media outlets and rights organisations released the findings
of a collaborative investigation that exposed Israeli firm the NSO Group doing business with government clients who may have used Pegasus software to spy not only on criminals and terrorists, as intended, but politicians, journalists, activists, and business people around the world. The list of potential targets included over 50,000 phone numbers belonging, among others, to three presidents
, 10 prime ministers, and one king.
Blinken's comments followed a statement by the US State Department that said "Beijing claims to welcome foreign media and support their work but in reality, its 'harsh rhetoric' toward any news it perceives to be critical of Chinese policies, has provoked negative public sentiment leading to tense, in-person confrontations and harassment, including online verbal abuse and death threats of journalists simply doing their jobs".
"Foreign journalists are increasingly refused visas to enter or remain in the PRC, severely limiting the quantity and quality of independent reporting on important issues. We call on the PRC to act as a responsible nation hoping to welcome foreign media and the world for the upcoming Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games", the US State Department said.
The censure from the US came after correspondents of several international media outlets were reportedly heckled on the streets of Henan province while covering floods. Recently, Chinese state media hit out at foreign news outlets for their coverage of floods in central China.
As per a Hong Kong Free Press report earlier this week, the Chinese social media platform Weibo was filled with angry posts, mainly aimed at BBC China, criticising the coverage of foreign correspondents as Chinese cities witnessed heavy downpours and flooding. The coverage by the foreign media was termed as "biased" and focused on the damage wrought by the floods rather than on the rescue and relief work carried out
by the government and the people.
The Foreign Correspondents' Club of China said in a statement after the Henan incident that it was "disappointed and dismayed at the growing hostility against foreign media in China, a sentiment underpinned by rising Chinese nationalism sometimes directly encouraged by Chinese officials and official entities".
China, on its part, has accused the US of "using press freedom as an excuse to play double standards and bully China". Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said in response to US Secretary Antony Blinken's accusations that the US "should reflect on its own press freedom and think about whether it can do better rather than smearing China".
"Speaking of the harassment, censorship and intimidation of the journalists, I would like to remind the US that since 2018, the US has rejected visa applications of over 20 Chinese journalists. It has listed many Chinese media outlets as foreign missions. The US also limits the number of journalists working in the US and has expelled 60 Chinese journalists. It adopts discriminatory measures of limiting the visa stay period to only three months", Zhao said, adding that he has video evidence of a Chinese journalist being "attacked when reporting on the storming of Capitol Hill".
Antony Blinken's remarks about China have also earned the wrath of several people on Twitter.