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HKJA and local partner collect 1,350 signatures in support of journalists targeted in Sichuan and Xinjiang provinces

(HKJA/IFEX) - 29 September 2009 - Hong Kong journalists have been beaten, detained and accused of inciting unrest while legitimately reporting on matters of public interest in Sichuan province and Urumqi, Xinjiang. The Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) and The Foreign Correspondents' Club, Hong Kong (FCC) held a signature campaign among fellow journalists and the departments of journalism in universities between 23 and 26 September. The campaign insists that the Xinjiang government publicly declare that the reporters committed no crime, stop all suppressive actions against the media, publicly pledge to respect press freedom and set up a communications channel between the Hong Kong journalists and the provincial government. We have secured 1,350 signatures in support of our demands.

The signatories include all strata in the news media. They include publishers, chief editors, editors, assignment editors, reporters, photojournalists and television news cameramen. We were also able to get the majority of journalism students and teachers as well as department heads to co-sign the aforesaid demands. The response shows widespread support within the industry as well as the academic community for our campaign. We hope the mainland authorities and government will give a positive response as soon as possible.

The Hong Kong Journalists Association also received support from individual National People's Congress delegates and members of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, who have promised to raise our concerns and demands when such chances become appropriate during their stay in Beijing to celebrate the National Days.

The signatories did not just support our course by co-signing. They also donated a total amount of HK $53,610 which, together with contributions from the HKJA and FCC, will go towards advertisements to be published on September 30 in "Apple Daily", "The Hong Kong Economics Times", "Ming Pao Daily" and the "South China Morning Post".

These advertisements will the carry names of signatories as well as our pledge:

We urge:
1. The Sichuan and Xinjiang governments to investigate the events in a comprehensive, fair and open manner. The governments have to publish the report and declare that the reporters committed no crime so as to vindicate the Hong Kong journalists.
2. The Sichuan and Xinjiang governments must punish those officials found to have committed wrongdoings, stop all suppressive actions against the media and publicly pledge to respect press freedom.
3. The acts by these provincial governments reflect a lack of respect for press freedom on the part of mainland authorities. It is a contravention of the open policy promised by the Central Government of China. We therefore urge the Central government to take the lead to abolish the rules which require journalists to apply for press permits before covering news on Mainland China.
4. To facilitate the smooth coverage of news on Mainland China, it is necessary for a proper and formal channel to be set up between the Chinese government and frontline journalists.

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