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Four journalists briefly detained by authorities while trying to cover bomb attacks

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an 11 August 2008 IFJ media release:

IFJ Calls on Chinese Authorities to Respect Press Freedom in Xinjiang

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called on Chinese authorities to live up to their promise that foreign media would be allowed to work freely in China after journalists said they have been barred from covering the aftermath of a series of bomb attacks on Sunday that killed 11 people in Xinjiang.

In the latest incidents, three Japanese journalists told the IFJ that they were detained on Sunday by police officers in Kuqa, in north-west China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, when they tried to enter the area on Sunday.

"They said it was for our own safety," one of the detained journalists said, "but I believe journalists should decide [how to protect] their own safety rather than the authorities."

He said that while he was detained police deleted photographs his colleague had taken without giving any explanation.

"Police and authorities in Xinjiang have repeatedly interfered in journalists' work to try to prevent them from effectively covering the situation there," said IFJ Deputy General Secretary Paco Audije. "At times, authorities use the excuse of protecting journalists' safety to ban them from the area. However, this seems to be a pretext used to stifle press freedom and curb coverage of the bombing."

The three detained journalists, who worked for Japanese newspaper Sankei Shimbun and news wire service JiJi Press, were questioned for hours and then released. They were allowed to return to Xinjiang and are still working there, they told the IFJ.

A British photographer was also detained by police in the region on Sunday after the bombing.

A journalist from Hong Kong told the IFJ that on Monday he was barred from filming at the Kuqa People's Hospital by staff that said he needed permission from Xinjiang's authorities. However, when he tried to get permission from regional officials, they told him it was unnecessary.

Last week two Japanese journalists were beaten by police while trying to report on the aftermath of another bomb attack in the region that killed 16 police officers. Other journalists reported that police confiscated or forced journalists to delete film footage and photographs.

The IFJ said these practices are a breach of the letter and spirit of China's reporting regulations, issued in 2007, that allow journalists from all countries to report freely including taking photos freely without any interference.

The IFJ represents over 600,000 in 120 countries worldwide.

For further information on the previous beating of Japanese journalists, see:

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