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Journalists physically attacked, harassed in Xinjiang and Guangdong provinces

(RSF/IFEX) - At least four journalists have been physically attacked by security guards or police in the past eight days in China. Chinese, Hong Kong and foreign journalists have been the victims of violence and harassment.

"The authorities will be hard put to rein in the disturbing rise in cases of violence against the press unless those responsible are dealt with in a firm but proportionate manner," Reporters Without Borders said. "The climate of social and ethnic tension in Xinjiang and the rest of the country do not justify such attacks, which seem to be acts of censorship, targeting investigative journalists above all. The excuses of the local authorities are clearly not sufficient."

"Guangzhou Daily" reporter Liu Manyuan was hospitalised after being attacked and beaten by two municipal security guards in the industrial city of Dongguan (in the southeastern province of Guangdong) on 31 August.

In an interview with a Guangzhou TV station, Liu said he was about to take photos at a murder scene in the Dongguan district of Humen when he was ordered to leave by uniformed guards acting at the behest of a superior. He was then thrown to the ground and beaten for about 10 minutes, sustaining bruising to the neck and arms. None of the many onlookers intervened.

A local official said the incident was due to a "lack of training" of the security forces, especially in legal matters. Reporting that the two guards had been dismissed and fined 500 yuan (approx. US$73), "Dongguan Daily" said it was the third case of violence against journalists by security guards in the past two months.

In a separate incident, three duly-accredited Hong Kong journalists covering the ethnic violence in Urumqi, the capital of the far-western province of Xinjiang, were beaten by anti-riot police on 4 September as they were trying to get away from tear gas the police had just fired. The journalists were forced to remain lying on the ground with their hands tied for 20 minutes. TVB reporter Lam Tsz-Ho said the police beat them with batons and confiscated the video they had recorded.

Five other Hong Kong reporters, including two RTHK television correspondents, were briefly arrested in Urumqi the same day, and the police seized the equipment of an Associated Press Television News crew, preventing them from filming the protests. The equipment was not returned for five hours.

Meanwhile, two Beijing-based reporters employed by Hong Kong media outlets were detained in a hotel in Chengdu, in Sichuan province, on 12 August to prevent them from covering the trial of a blogger, Tan Zuoren, that was taking place that day.

According to the latest Foreign Correspondents' Club of China (FCCC) survey of its members, at least 32 foreign journalists were physically attacked or suffered destruction of photos or equipment in the 12 months following the August 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. There were also 21 cases of Chinese assistants being intimidated and 23 cases of their being summoned for questioning.

Chinese citizens who speak to foreign journalists are also more exposed than in the past. According to the FCCC, there were more than 80 incidents involving sources.

To read the full report, see: http://www.fccchina.org/2009/08/06/results-of-july-membership-survey/

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