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IFJ urges authorities to lift new bans on newspapers

(IFJ/IFEX) - 19 July 2010 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns an effort by China's Central Propaganda Department to restrict communication between various provincial city newspapers, an act which violates the country's constitution.

The IFJ learns that the department issued an order, implemented from July 1, forbidding all local city newspapers from publishing negative articles prepared by newspapers in other provinces. The order clearly violates Article 35 of China's Constitution.

Under the current system of controls, the department's local branch offices only have power to control provincial media, not metropolitan (city) media. Therefore, many city-based newspapers send staff to report news from outside the cities, and they also cooperate with other local newspapers, publishing their reports if restrictive orders prevent local papers from publishing such reports.

The order has been implemented in provinces including Beijing, Guangdong, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and Hunan.

"The aim of the order is to strengthen the local governments' ability to control the dissemination of negative reports about their own cities," a journalist who works in one of the affected provinces said.

"We'd heard that some of the local governments had complained to the Central Propaganda Department of negative stories being published about their province," the journalist said. "The order affects the watch-dog power of media."

Meanwhile, another order has been issued to all city newspapers to follow state-owned media when reporting on spontaneous news, unless a news event is specifically observed by a staff reporter.

"These new orders are clear violations of the principles of press freedom which are enshrined in Article 35 of China's Constitution, and the IFJ urges China's authorities to revoke them immediately," IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.

"Professional journalists have a duty to independently report events and public concerns, without fear of being forced to provide propaganda."

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