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Authorities concede need for investigations into attacks on journalists

(IFJ/IFEX) - 3 August 2010 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is concerned by a series of threats, assaults and acts of intimidation against journalists and media workers in China in recent days, but also welcomes statements by authorities noting the rights of media workers and pledging to investigate several of these incidents.

The police detention of seven Hong Kong-based and foreign media workers in Guangzhou on August 1, however, was not among the incidents which authorities promised to investigate. In this case, a group of police officers harassed the media personnel as they reported on a rally to protect the city's colloquial language. Journalists in China were banned from covering the event, and were instructed by authorities to use government news agency reports instead.

Journalist Lam Kin-seng, of Hong Kong-based Cable TV, reported that police surrounded the media workers before taking them to a temporary office where they were detained for almost six hours, interrogated and accused of being involved in "attempting to disrupt social order".

"The IFJ urges the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP) of China and the All China Journalists' Association to work to ensure officials at all levels understand the rights of the media that are enshrined in China's Constitution," IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.

"The detention of journalists on spurious criminal charges shows that local authorities continue to attempt to block media access and reporting despite higher-level authorities stating support for press freedom."

Regarding three unrelated incidents in Lishui City, Shanghai and Shenzhen from July 23 to 30, GAPP made a statement on July 30 noting its support for the rights of media workers and pledging to conduct investigations. These incidents are as follows.

In Lishui City, Suichang County, on July 23, the Economic Observer's Qiu Ziming discovered his name on an online "wanted persons" list of the local security bureau, after he published three articles on Zhejiang Kan Specialties Material Corporation. The reports related to the company's suspected involvement in activities which breached stock exchange rules.

The security bureau subsequently deleted Qiu's name and apologised to him on July 30, although there has been no firm commitment made to investigate alleged attempts to bribe and harass Qiu to cover up his reports.

Meanwhile, in Shenzhen on July 29, journalist Chen Xiaoying, of the China Times, was punched in the head by an unidentified man when she arrived for an appointment with an anonymous source who had claimed he would give her information about Shenzhen International Enterprise Co. Chen believes the assault was connected to her report, published on July 18, which alleged that the company's managing director may have been involved in inappropriate activities.

In Shanghai on July 30, four people including a staff member of shampoo manufacturer Bawang Group broke into the office of National Business Daily after it reported allegations that the company's product might contain excessive levels of chemicals. The group shoved and harassed staff as the deputy editor-in-chief and others tried to negotiate with them.

A final case, reported to have occurred in Liandu District on July 16, did not elicit an appropriate response from authorities. On July 16, Chen Wenguang, of Zhejiang TV, suffered stomach injuries and his camera was damaged in an assault by an official of Lu Bu village, following his request to interview village vice-officer Zeng Guofeng regarding construction of a resort without official approval.

"The IFJ is encouraged by statements by authorities that these kinds of attacks and restrictions on media are unacceptable, and urges media organisations to report all such cases in the aim of ensuring authorities exercise their duty to fully investigate and publicly disclose the results," White said.

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    "We welcome the apology that the Suichang police have given to Qiu Ziming and we call for a transparent investigation into why he was placed on a national list of wanted criminals," RSF said.

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