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Central government must prevent media harassment, says IFJ

(IFJ/IFEX) - 2 November 2011 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is deeply frustrated by reports that two Chinese journalists were harassed and assaulted and another detained in a separate incident while investigating official misconduct and negligence.

On October 28, Cai Sheng and Wang Shaoyang, of the Shanghai Media Group's Radio and Television of Shanghai stations, were involved in an altercation with a group of people in the city of Hengshui, in China's northern Hebei province. During the incident, Cai was struck on the back of the head by an unidentified individual.

According to a Radio Free Asia report, Cai and Wang were assaulted during a visit to an electronics store in Hengshui's Shenzhou district, adjacent to Shenzhou Prison. The visit was part of an investigation into corruption involving correctional officers, prompted by the escape of a prisoner on September 11. The subsequent capture of the escapee revealed that correctional officers had illegally allowed prisoners access to mobile phones, and that the head of the prison, Huo Xinfa, had failed to publicly disclose the escape.

On October 30, Xun Xuyang, a journalist with Southern Metropolis Daily, was detained by police in Zhumadian, in China's northern Henan Province, for approximately 30 minutes while investigating criminal charges against the head of the Liangzhou district police station in Runan County. It is alleged that Liangzhou Police chief Wang Yinpeng hit eight pedestrians while driving under the influence of alcohol. Five of the pedestrians died as a result of the accident.

In a post on the Chinese microblog platform Weibo, Xun claimed that he was detained by a plain-clothes agent who refused to disclose his identity. The agent reportedly held him at a police station for half an hour until he was transferred to the custody of an officer of the Runan propaganda department. The officer then attempted unsuccessfully to detain Xun in a local hotel.

"It is extremely frustrating that media workers in China continue to suffer harassment and intimidation from public officials in the course of their duties," IFJ Asia-Pacific said.

"Calls from China's central government for recognition of the rights of journalists to conduct investigations, in these cases into official misconduct, clearly aren't being heeded by public officials and police.

"The IFJ applauds the efforts of Chinese journalists who continue to investigate important cases of corruption and negligence under such constraints."

The IFJ urges the Public Security Bureau of China to direct the police of Hengshui city to investigate the harassment of Cai Sheng and Wang Shaoyang.

Furthermore, the IFJ urges the Central Propaganda Department of China to investigate the conduct of its officers and ensure they are not impeding the work of journalists.

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