Reporters on the Job

Chinese Standards in Africa: Zambian leaders could barely contain their glee last weekend as Chinese President Hu Jintao – in town on his eight-nation tour of Africa – promised their impoverished country new infusions of investment and aid (see story). But correspondent Joseph Schatz says that Zambian journalists were fuming.

"Chinese security made it clear ahead of time that Mr. Hu would take no questions from the press at any point during his three-day visit. His host, Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa, didn't either. And at a state banquet, photographers were seated in a separate room and prohibited from taking photos of Hu.

Getting used to China's rising influence in Africa may be particularly difficult for the African press corps – at least in Zambia, where the media is relatively free and used to a certain level of interaction with their government officials.

Zambian officials said that it would be rude to "crowd" the Chinese president. "You have to also consider your guest's culture," said Mr. Mwanawasa's press spokesman.

Reporters said that their government allowed Chinese security to take over the press operations throughout Hu's visit – only reinforcing the common perception among urban Zambians that China is gaining too much political clout.

Eddie Mwanaleza, a veteran photojournalist at The Post, Zambia's largest independent daily newspaper, says he has covered visits by the late Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and George H.W. Bush, when he was vice president. "There is always a lot of security – but not this kind of nonsense."

David Clark Scott
World editor

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