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China issues new wave of censorship orders

(IFJ/IFEX) - April 13, 2010 - A new series of bans and orders forbidding independent coverage of events in China has been issued by China's Central Propaganda Department.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is informed the department ordered on April 6 that there only be positive coverage of government efforts to rescue 153 workers trapped in a flooded coal mine at Wangjialing in Shanxi Province.

The order also instructed journalists to vacate the area immediately. Any negative reports were to be retracted or deleted from both online and traditional media.

The ban followed the publication of several articles by Hong Kong and international media outlets suggesting that the high rate of mining fatalities in China was a result of government attempts to increase revenue by over-exploiting coal reserves, causing mine owners to disregard adequate safety precautions for their workers. The miners have been trapped since March 28.

On April 7, the department ordered all media outlets to source their coverage of civil unrest in Kyrgyzstan from the state-owned Xinhua News Agency, and ordered the deletion of any negative reports about the issue from the internet.

Over the past two weeks, hundreds of people have died in the Republic of Kyrgyzstan in conflicts surrounding the ousting of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev. Local reports suggest that the possibility of violence spilling over into Xinjiang Province across the Kyrgyzstan border may be a cause for concern for China's Government.

On April 8, media was ordered not to report on the death of Putian City Mayor Zhang Guosheng, 44, who reportedly fell from a government building in Putian, Fujian Province, that day. Reports before Zhang's death alleged he was being investigated by the Central Communist Party. Zhang's widow was reportedly warned not to talk to media.

In the same directive, the department forbade reporting about allegations of bribery against the German automobile company Daimler in 22 countries, including China. According to the Central News Agency, the China Petrochemical Development Corporation admitted that a member of its staff was involved, and that he had been sentenced to seven years' jail.

"China's continuing bans refuse to recognise the important social role of the media as a watchdog on corruption and accountability, a role which serves the public interest," IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.

The IFJ calls on China's authorities to honour China's constitutional guarantees to provide citizens with an open and diverse media, supported by the unhindered work of journalists.

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