CJFE Dismayed by Obstruction of Journalists in China

Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) is dismayed by the Chinese government's violations of their 2001 pledge for media freedom in Beijing. As recently as July 11, 2008, Li Changchun, the fifth-ranked official in China, was reiterating his government's assurances to "earnestly abide by relevant regulations regarding foreign journalists' reporting activities in the country." Despite this, foreign journalists have been subjected to obstruction, intimidation, violence and death threats in response to unfavourable reporting. CJFE has written a letter to Embassy of the People's Republic of China in Canada, calling for the information freedoms promised in the Service Guide for Foreign Media to be upheld, and for a stop to the violence and intimidation tactics being used against foreign journalists and their sources. In May, 2007, the Chinese government released a "Service Guide for Foreign Media Coverage of the Beijing Olympic Games and the Preparatory Period," which would be in effect from January 1, 2007, until October 17, 2008. Article 6 of the Service Guide, for instance, promises foreign journalists the ability to freely interview any consenting Chinese organization or citizen. In a 71-page report released on July 7, 2008, Human Rights Watch detailed how foreign journalists and their sources are facing obstruction when they pursue stories that could embarrass authorities, expose official wrongdoing, or document social unrest. Access to sensitive areas is highly restricted, including prisons, the site of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, and Tibet. A government document recovered by Reporters Without Borders in March, 2008, reveals that government strategy for dealing with foreign media involves serious obstructions to the free flow of news and information. As reported by IFEX members, foreign journalists and their sources are facing violence in response to their work in China. Chris Buckley, a Reuters correspondent, was beaten and detained by plainclothes policemen after interviewing Chinese citizens being held at an illegal detention facility in Beijing. One local source for a foreign television journalist was beaten so badly that he had to be hospitalized, and was subsequently placed under house arrest. "The treatment of journalists and their sources in China represents a complete disregard for the rights and freedoms of the media," stated CJFE Executive Director Anne Game. "The Chinese government has repeatedly violated their promised commitment to media freedom, and to freedom of expression." Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) is an association of more than 300 journalists, editors, publishers, producers, students and others who work to promote and defend free expression and press freedom in Canada and around the world.

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