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China restricts reporting on Philippines hostage tragedy

(IFJ/IFEX) - 25 August 2010 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is concerned by an order issued by China's Central Propaganda Department that Chinese media avoid any negative reporting of this week's hostage crisis in the Philippines.

"The order attempts to muzzle open reporting of the circumstances surrounding recent events in the Philippines and must be lifted by China's central authorities immediately," IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.

Eight Hong Kong tourists were killed in a day-long siege by Philippines police on August 23, after a tour bus with 22 passengers was hijacked by a former policeman in Manila. Seven people were injured and the cause of death of the eight people remains unclear.

In response, China's Central Propaganda Department demanded that all media in China should report positively on the evacuation of the victims and survivors of the incident.

There should be no reporting or sensationalist comment which could disturb bilateral relationships with the Philippines, the order said. Instead, journalists are required to report directly from statements issued by China's Foreign Ministry.

"This is a strict rule - we have to follow the Foreign Ministry's announcement when reporting any case involving foreign affairs," a journalist from China said.

"We are not surprised to receive this order although I think the handling of the crisis by the Philippines' Government is terribly unacceptable."

China's embassy in the Philippines issued a statement to condemn the hostage-taker and demanded an explanation.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang expressed disappointment with the handling of the crisis by the Philippines Government.

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