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Propaganda department issues new reporting ban

(IFJ/IFEX) - March 11, 2010 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is dismayed to learn that China's central and provincial propaganda departments have issued a new order banning media reporting on any matter related to threats made by Hubei province governor Li Hongzhong against a Beijing Times reporter on February 7.

The order bans all media reporting and online discussion about an incident on February 7 in which Li refused to answer a Beijing Times journalist's question, demanded the name of her employer, confiscated her recording device and threatened to contact her boss. The journalist had reportedly asked Li about a case in Hubei in May 2009 when a hotel worker allegedly murdered a police officer.

The Beijing Times is a sister newspaper of the state-owned People's Daily.

The altercation was widely reported in newspapers across China but was notably excluded from reports in the local Communist Party-owned En Shi newspaper in Hubei.

The new order forced all newspapers to remove any articles related to the incident from their websites and public discussion forums, where it had become a hot topic for netizens.

Several restrictions related to the murder case were issued in May 2009. At the time, the orders banned independent reporting of the case as well as reports on violent interactions between local government officials and journalists trying to report on the case.

The IFJ calls on China's central and provincial governments to end bans on news content and to honour Premier Wen Jiaobo's recent promises for more open and unrestricted media policies.

On March 5, Premier Wen assured the National People's Congress of the government's commitment to improving China's press freedom status by creating policy that promotes open and free media environments, including greater public recognition of the role of independent media as watchdogs on government transparency.

"Interference in media content and reporting at any level of government is contrary to Premier Wen's promise of genuine free access to information and press freedom in China," IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.

"While the IFJ welcomes reports of new policies to promote a more open and free working environment for China's media, it is deeply frustrating to learn that these promises have already been undermined by the issue of a new ban on media reporting."

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