The publishers of the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal asked China on Tuesday to reconsider its order expelling 13 U.S. journalists, arguing the action imperils "access to critical information" about the global virus pandemic.
A joint letter from the three news organizations to the Chinese governments said the media is suffering "collateral damage" from a diplomatic dispute between the two countries.
"This move -- made in retaliation for recent expulsions by the United States government -- is one that we would protest under any circumstances," said the letter signed by William Lewis of the Journal, Fred Ryan of the Post and A.G. Sulzberger of the Times.
"But it is uniquely damaging and reckless as the world continues the struggle to control this disease, a struggle that will require the free flow of reliable news and information."
A total of 13 American journalists have been told to hand back their credentials to Chinese authorities.
China last month expelled three journalists from The Wall Street Journal after the newspaper ran an opinion piece on the coronavirus crisis with a headline that Beijing called racist.
The U.S. responded by curbing the number of Chinese nationals from state-run outlets.
China's latest move has been criticized by media watchdog groups, some of which also lamented the U.S. reprisal actions.
U.S. President Donald Trump last week said he was "not happy" about the expulsions despite his own issues with U.S. media outlets.
The three news executives called on the Chinese government to reverse its decision on expulsion and to "ease the growing crackdown on independent news organizations that preceded this action."
"The media is collateral damage in a diplomatic dispute between the Chinese and US governments, threatening to deprive the world of critical information at a perilous moment," they wrote.