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White House protests China's treatment of foreign journalists

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House on Thursday sharply criticized China's treatment of foreign journalists and noted specifically the case of a New York Times reporter whose visa was not extended.

In a statement, White House spokesman Jay Carney said foreign journalists faced impediments to their ability to do their jobs. Such conditions include extended delays in processing journalist visas, restrictions on travel to some locations deemed "sensitive" by Chinese authorities, and sometimes even violence from local officials.

"These restrictions and treatment are not consistent with freedom of the press and stand in stark contrast with U.S. treatment of Chinese and other foreign journalists," Carney said.

The statement expressed disappointment that New York Times reporter Austin Ramzy was forced to leave China on Thursday because of processing delays for his press credentials.

"We remain concerned that Mr. Ramzy and several other U.S. journalists have waited months, and in some cases years, for a decision on their press credentials and visa applications," Carney said.

Treatment of American journalists is one of several issues that have strained U.S.-Chinese relations recently, along with China's declaration of an air defense zone to support its territorial claims on islands that Japan considers part of its territory in the East China Sea.

Carney said the United States would continue to raise its concerns about the treatment of journalists and media organizations in China. He urged Beijing to commit to timely visa and credentialing decisions for foreign journalists as well as to unblock U.S. media websites and eliminate other restrictions.

"Our two countries should be expanding media exchanges to enhance mutual understanding and trust," he said, "not restricting the ability of journalists to do their work."

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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