Peter Greste, Alliance for Journalists’ Freedom spokesperson can be quoted as saying:
“Without any evidence of wrong-doing, the Chinese authorities’ treatment of the ABC’s Bill Birtles and Mike Smith from the AFR looks like harassment of respected journalists to make a political and diplomatic point.
“Journalists should never be used as political pawns and hostages. Without Australian journalists operating freely in China, the Australian public has no independent eyes or ears reporting events inside our most important trading partner. That is bad for both Australia and China.
“We strongly urge the Chinese government to allow the Australian reporters – and other international counterparts – to return and work without hinderance or harassment.
“AJF compliments the ABC and Nine on putting the safety of their journalists first in a precarious situation.
“This news, coming shortly after the detainment of Australian journalist Cheng Lei – with no explanation seemingly forthcoming – shows just how intolerant China has become when it comes to the kind of independent scrutiny that good journalism brings. We need open communication on these issues and a commitment to a freer press.”