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IFJ Press Freedom in China Campaign bulletin - October 2009

(IFJ/IFEX) - October 8, 2009 - In this bulletin:

1. National Day Events Held in Media Vacuum
2. Internet Blockage Halts Communication Outside China
3. Foreign Reporters Face Harassment and Intimidation
4. Government Reneges on Promises of Transparency
5. Newspapers Recalled for Anti-Government Sentiment
6. IFJ Demands Investigation into Media Harassment by Police
7. IFJ Joins Protest Against Violent Treatment of Hong Kong Media
8. Radio Television Hong Kong Stays Under Government Control

1. National Day Events Held in Media Vacuum

New orders and regulations issued by China's Central Propaganda Department in September sought to ensure that China's National Day events on October 1 were not tainted by unfavourable media reporting. Fifteen orders banned journalists from interviewing, photographing and reporting from Tiananmen Square and other public venues in the lead-up to the day. The Foreign Correspondents' Club of China said its members had receiving warnings not to interview people or take photographs in and around the square in the weeks before the anniversary or to take photos during parade rehearsals. China's Government also reportedly increased surveillance of several press freedom advocates in the same period. Zeng Jinyan, a blogger and the wife of imprisoned writer Hu Jia, along with Charter 08 petition leader Zhang Zuhua and Tibetan writer Degewa reported heavy surveillance by security bureau officers. Security officials also banned blogger Ran Yungei from leaving Sichuan province to attend a seminar in Hong Kong organised by Hong Kong University's Journalism and Media Studies Unit on October 5 and 6. No explanation was given.

2. Internet Blockage Halts Communication Outside China

Software programs used nation-wide to circumvent online censorship of alleged "anti-government" websites including Freegate, VPN, TOR, JAP, Phproxy, Gladder, Phzilla, Freedur and Skydur have reportedly been blocked since mid-September. On September 27, the National People's Congress of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region announced seven rules for internet service providers including prohibition of publishing messages that could be considered a "subversion of state power", encouragements of separatism and information that could cause social instability. The restrictions follow a blockage of all internet services during the ethnic-based riots between Uyghur and Han minority groups in Xinjiang which began on July 5. Websites such as Mongolian People ( http://www.mongolhun.com ) and Mongol Ger Association ( http://www.mongolger.net ), blogs and the email systems at Radio Free Asia and the Foreign Correspondents' Club of China reported interference or temporary failure in the days prior to and during October 1. Two popular websites, http://www.qq.com and http://www.sina.com , were also reportedly forced to file a notice with the State Council Information Office before posting information about criminal cases in mid-September.

3. Foreign Reporters Face Harassment and Intimidation

Three journalists from Japan-based Kyodo News were reportedly assaulted by unidentified people for taking photographs on September 18 of preparations for China's National Day military parade. A group reportedly stormed the journalists' Beijing hotel room without warning, physically assaulted the journalists, holding one on the floor and forcing the others to kneel down while destroying their computers. A complaint letter was reportedly filed by the head of Kyodo News but no response, explanation or apology for the incident has been provided. A day earlier, two Japanese journalists and a Chinese assistant from NHK Japan Broadcasting were prevented from interviewing online journalist Liu Feivue in Suizhou, Hubei. Liu told the IFJ he was harassed by unidentified people who urged him not to grant the interview. Liu is currently under surveillance by security bureau officers for his work as a citizen journalist and reporting on cases of injustice in his local province of Hubei.

4. Government Reneges on Promises of Transparency

Beijing-based BBC reporter Michael Bristow said in a news report that Chinese officials had reneged on a "zero distance" pledge made by the Press Department of the State Council Information Office on August 13. The pledge stated that all questions submitted to government officials would be answered within 24 hours. Bristow reportedly submitted a series of questions to various government departments about the National Day celebrations but received no reply or was not provided with adequate information. The IFJ condemned the failure to meet the pledge as yet another example of China's long-standing history of impeding the media and a failure to meet its stated commitment to improve public freedoms under China's National Human Rights Plan 2009-2010.

5. Newspapers Recalled for Anti-Government Sentiment

The Jinzhou Evening Post was ordered by the Jinzhou provincial propaganda department to recall all copies of its newspaper from all distributors and vendors on September 27 because they contained anti-government sentiment. The content in question related to two sentences published next to a front-page photo encouraging members of the Communist Party to cancel their memberships. The Post is under the control of the Jinzhou Municipality. No information is available about why or who inserted the text in the paper. On September 16, the website of Xin Xiang newspaper ( http://www.xxbnews.com ) was shut down under orders by the Hunan Government without explanation.

6. IFJ Demands Investigation into Media Harassment by Police

To mark China's 60th anniversary under Communist Party leadership, the IFJ called on the Minister for Public Security, Meng Jianzhu, to launch an immediate investigation into the unprofessional behaviour of some local, provincial and metropolitan authorities toward media personnel. In an article published in the Hong Kong-based Apple Daily, the IFJ demanded law enforcement agencies respect the rights of local and foreign media personnel to conduct their work, following an increase in attacks on the media in recent months. The IFJ condemned the hostile attitude of police and government authorities toward the media and journalists, saying such hostility has been evident through the past 60 years of China's political history as journalists continue to be treated as trouble makers, instigators of civil disturbances, or spies. China's Police Ordinance states that all police officers are required to exercise their duties to protect civilians and the wider society. The Ordinance also explicitly orders police not to lie or fabricate evidence or to use force without reasonable grounds.

7. IFJ Joins Protest Against Violent Treatment of Hong Kong Media

The Hong Kong Journalists' Association (HKJA), an IFJ affiliate, and the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Hong Kong held a march in Hong Kong on September 13 to protest the use of force and violence by Xinjiang authorities to prevent Hong Kong journalists and media workers from reporting on ethnic violence in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, on September 4. The IFJ joined the public call for the Xinjiang Government to make a formal apology to three journalists and a cameraman who were blamed by a government spokesperson on September 11 for inciting civil unrest. The HKJA and the Foreign Correspondents' Club also gathered 1350 signatures from within the industry and university journalism departments in a petition condemning such public vilification of the media, to be presented to the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

8. Radio Television Hong Kong Stays Under Government Control

Public calls for the transformation of Radio Television Hong Kong into an independent broadcaster were defied in a decision announced on September 22 by Hong Kong's Commerce and Economics Development Bureau to retain RTHK as a government department. The decision follows more than two decades of campaigning by RTHK and the public for the broadcaster's independence. The bureau's announcement said that a new board would provide editorial policy advice to RHTK. It said the board would not intervene in RTHK's day-to-day operations. New plans for an RTHK-run television channel and a channel for the Central Government Broadcasting in mainland China were also made known in the announcement.

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