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Media ordered to censor Google news reports

(IFJ/IFEX) - January 15, 2010 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the Central Propaganda Department's demand that China's media only use information from the state-owned Xinhua and China Daily outlets when reporting on Google Inc's January 12 announcement to withdraw from operating in China.

The department's order also said news reports about the issue must not be published in prominent places.

Google made its announcement after reportedly detecting a highly sophisticated targeted attack on its infrastructure, generated from China.

"Any targeted interference in online communications in China raises significant concerns about the security of journalists in China who gather and share information online and report independently in the public interest," IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.

In a statement on its website, Google said at least two gmail accounts run by Chinese human rights activists had been attacked. Dozens of users who are involved in human rights advocacy in China and who have gmail accounts based in the United States, China and Europe had also been routinely accessed by unknown third parties.

The statement said Google would no longer appease China's demands to censor and filter information available on its China-specific search engine, Google.cn. Google.cn employs about 700 staff in China.

US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton also expressed concern on January 12 about alleged interference in Google and online communication services in China.

"We look to the Chinese Government for an explanation. The ability to operate with confidence in cyberspace is critical in a modern society and economy," she said in a statement.

On January 14, a spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry defended China's cyber industry, stating that the internet was open and government management of the internet was in accordance with the law.

"Google's announcement is a welcome step forward in encouraging global media groups to take a stand against policies that infringe on the rights of all internet users - including journalists and activists - to privacy in their communications," White said.

The IFJ urges China's Government to cease issuing orders to censor and control media content in China.

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