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Journalists beaten and detained for ignoring censorship orders

Defiant and resilient, Chinese journalists continue reporting on stories the regime would prefer to conceal. In their effort to inform the public, journalists are often assaulted and arrested, report the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Stories of a deadly aircraft crash that killed 42 people, a young woman gang-raped by individuals with links to the police, and environmental damage and human suffering in the aftermath of the construction of a dam are a few examples of the reportage that evade censorship. This culture of media repression has spread to private-sector companies targeting journalists, with authorities protecting companies at the expense of media freedom.

Journalist Xie Chaoping was illegally arrested without a warrant on 19 August after writing a book about those displaced by the building of the Sanmenxia dam. He spent three years interviewing migrants and gathering information for "The Great Migration."

In Fujian province, blogger Fan Yanqiong is serving a two-year jail sentence on a charge of defaming the police. Fan was one of three bloggers convicted for publicising the case of Yan Xiaoling, a young woman who died after allegedly being gang-raped by individuals connected to the police. Fan has been in prison since June 2009. At her trial in April 2010, she was using a wheel chair and an oxygen mask; she was then taken to the hospital on 25 August.

In another incident, at least four journalists were detained by police on 28 August when they attempted to report on a 24 August aircraft crash that killed 42 people, including government officials, and take photos at a funeral. They were subsequently freed after other journalists protested. The Central Propaganda Department had ordered the media not to focus on officials killed.

The Central Propaganda Department has also banned reporting on an explosion in western China that killed seven people and injured 14. The blast took place on 19 August in Aksu City, Xinjiang, Uyghur Autonomous Region. IFJ has urged China's authorities to remove the reporting ban immediately, "as in times of crisis it is essential that the public is able to access updated and credible information." Authorities are particularly sensitive about Xinjiang, where the government alleges a separatist movement is on the rise.

In another part of the country, in Tibet, the absence of independent observers permits Chinese authorities to regularly arrest and convict journalists, writers, bloggers and environmentalists without any form of due process. Recently, Sonam Rinchen and Sonam Dhondup, two students who helped edit the Tibetan student magazine "Namchak", were sentenced to two years in prison and charged with separatism and inciting separatism in their writing. They had published comments about China's policies towards minorities, including Tibetans.

The Chinese media are also increasingly being targeted with threats and censorship by private-sector companies and some state companies.

In one case, two journalists had a run-in with police on 9 August after writing about the internal problems of a biotech company. The article was posted on Qianlong.com, which was then ordered to withdraw it. In another case, a respected Beijing journalist, Fang Xuanchang, was beaten with a steel bar after writing about medical charlatans, fake discoveries and the questionable practices of several small health-sector companies.

At least 35 journalists are currently detained in China, reports RSF.

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