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Police block reporting of aircraft crash

(IFJ/IFEX) - August 30, 2010 - The International Federation of Journalist (IFJ) is concerned about the detention of journalists who were reporting on aspects of a deadly aircraft crash in China's north-east, and about a restrictive order placed on reporting details of the incident's aftermath.

An aircraft with 96 passengers crashed at Yichun City airport, Heilongjiang Province, on August 24. Forty-two passengers were killed and 54 were injured in the crash, which was widely covered by media from several provinces. A number of the dead were government officials.

According to a report in Beijing News, at least four journalists were detained by police for at least two hours on August 28 when they attempted to report on the aftermath of the crash, and take images at a funeral.

One of the journalists told Beijing News that up to three policemen manhandled him and handcuffed his hands behind his back. "They admitted that they were targeting media when they pushed me inside a police car," the journalist said.

Other journalists also covering the case protested and demanded police release the four journalists. The journalists were subsequently released.

The Minister of Yichun City's Security Bureau apologised to the detained journalists. The Vice-Director of Yichun City's propaganda department claimed the detention was a mistake but provided no further elaboration.

However, a journalist told the IFJ that an order was made by the Central Propaganda Department "which demands media not focus on the injured government officials."

"The IFJ welcomes the apology by the Yichun City Security Bureau, but this does not detract from the fact that these journalists should not have been detained for legitimately reporting on the aircraft crash," IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.

"The IFJ remains concerned that a restrictive order was placed on the reporting of government officials injured in this incident, only one day after the Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao, publicly confirmed in a speech to a national meeting of all government officials on August 27 the important role of the media in reporting any illegal activities and improper behaviour from officials."

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