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Central Propaganda Department issues further restrictions on reporting on tainted milk scandal

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 16 October 2008 IFJ press release:

IFJ Dismayed at New Restrictions on Reporting China's Health Crisis

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is dismayed to learn of further orders by China's Central Propaganda Department against reporting on the tainted milk scandal which has swept China and the world in the past month.

The IFJ learned that on October 10 the Central Propaganda Department ordered media not to report on a lawsuit filed in Yunnan province in early October against the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (GAQSIQ), by parents of a baby who reportedly developed kidney stones after consuming tainted milk.

The IFJ was told that the Propaganda Department immediately ordered all media not to report the case after several newspapers in Yunnan reported on the lawsuit.

The new restrictions come after the department earlier ordered journalists from at least four newspapers, including Southern Metropolis Daily, to leave Shijiazhuang, Hebei province, where milk products company Sanlu is based.

The department also issued earlier commands that only information obtained from official government sources such as the Xinhua News Agency and China Daily could be published, and orders insisting on positive reporting of the Government's handling of the crisis.

"The tainted milk scandal is a matter of grave concern about public health for people in China and around the world, and journalists must be allowed to report on the crisis freely and fairly," IFJ Asia-Pacific said.

"A free media is crucial to investigating scandals of this kind, and resolving them in the public interest. China is doing the world a disservice by restricting reporting on the issue."

The IFJ urges China to withdraw the Central Propaganda Department's orders and to allow free reporting on the issue of contaminated milk products.

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