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Authorities ban reporting on deadly mudslide

(IFJ/IFEX) - 9 August 2010 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is deeply concerned that a restrictive order has stopped journalists from going to report on yesterday's deadly mudslide in north-west China.

The IFJ learned that a restrictive order was sent by China's Central Propaganda Department on August 8 which states that no journalists should be sent to the vicinity of the mudslide in Zhouqu County, Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu Province.

The mudslide has reportedly killed at least 127 people and more than 1000 people were missing, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency.

"The IFJ urges China's central authorities to lift this ban, as transparent reporting of natural disasters provides up-to-the-minute information that can help save lives," IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.

"The IFJ understands the safety of journalists and media workers is important, and it should be up to journalists and their employers to determine the level of risk involved in reporting the disaster."

According to Xinhua, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and some officials with the State Council left Beijing for Zhouqu County on August 8 soon after the disaster happened.

According to Southern Metropolis newspaper, a number of foreign geologists had warned in 2008 of the potential risks of mudslides in the area, but the local government did not take the necessary precautions. The report said that in the same year more than 60 landslides happened, but no deaths were reported.

The IFJ urges the All Chinese Journalists' Association to remind all media outlets of the importance of taking proper safety precautions for employees, including providing insurance and adequate training in the reporting of natural disasters.

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