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Journalists prevented from reporting on protests

(IFJ/IFEX) - October 25, 2010 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) Asia-Pacific is disturbed to learn of the detention and interrogation of a group of journalists seeking to report on an anti-Japan protest in Deyang, Sichuan province, China.

Several protests have broken out in a number of cities in China since October 23, over a territorial dispute regarding the Japan-administered Senkaku Islands. About six foreign journalists from NHK Japan, Japan's "Sankei Shimbun" newspaper and Reuters travelled to Deyang, arriving at a garden where one protest was scheduled.

Deyang Security Bureau officers promptly detained them, taking them to the local Propaganda Department office.

"Our colleagues, including the other media's journalists, were detained for two hours and then they were allowed to visit the garden," said an NHK journalist, who requested anonymity.

The security officers then escorted the journalists to Chengdu airport before the protest began.

The journalist told the IFJ that security officers demanded the journalists leave on the grounds of "personal safety".

However, journalists are permitted to conduct interviews with any individuals who consent, under Article 17 of the Regulations of the People's Republic of China Concerning Reporting Activities of Permanent Offices of Foreign Media Organisations and Foreign Journalists.

"The IFJ is concerned that the rights of journalists to report the news in China have been undermined on the pretext of personal safety," IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.

"Safety is a critical issue for reporting in dangerous situations, but it is up to journalists and their organisations to assess the risk of a situation, including assessing the advice of security personnel.

"In this case, it is apparent that the officers were attempting to suppress information regarding the protests in Deyang, thereby breaching China's regulations regarding foreign media."

The IFJ urges China's central authorities to direct all provincial government and local security bureau officers to permit all journalists to exercise their duties without restraint, in accordance with the regulations for the foreign correspondents.

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