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Government issues new restrictions on news assistants of foreign correspondents, creates journalist "blacklist"

(HRW/IFEX) - The following is an abridged version of an 18 March 2009 Human Rights Watch press release:

China: New Restrictions Target Media
Government Curbs Local News Assistants, Threatens 'Blacklist'

(New York, March 18, 2009) - New Chinese government restrictions on news assistants of foreign correspondents and the creation of a Chinese journalist "blacklist" are major setbacks for media freedom in China, Human Rights Watch said today.

On February 13, 2009, the government issued a code of conduct for the Chinese news assistants of foreign correspondents that threatens dismissal and loss of accreditation for engaging in "independent reporting." The same day, the government announced it would create a "blacklist" of Chinese journalists deemed to have engaged in "illegal reporting."

"After taking some steps forward on media freedom in 2008, the Chinese government is now stepping backwards," said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. "Granting greater freedom to foreign correspondents and then increasing the constraints on their crucial Chinese assistants can't be considered progress."

Human Rights Watch said that the Chinese government's actions cast fresh doubt on its claims that the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games resulted in greater development of human rights in China, particularly media freedom. At the United Nations Universal Periodic Review of China's human rights record in Geneva in February 2009, several countries raised concerns about abuses of Chinese and foreign journalists in China; government officials denied the existence of such abuses and noted that China's constitution "explicitly provides that citizens enjoy freedom of speech and of the press."

Chinese law forbids its citizens to work as journalists for foreign media in China. However, foreign correspondents in China, particularly those at China-based international news wire services, rely on local news assistants for their language skills and their ability to gather information quickly and efficiently. Representatives of wire services told Human Rights Watch that strict interpretation and enforcement of the code of conduct could harm their newsgathering operations in China.

To read the full press release, see:

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