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Media group bans journalists from speaking of Xiaobo case

(IFJ/IFEX) - 10 December 2010 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is deeply concerned that one of China's largest and influential media groups warned staff members not to make mention of 2010 Nobel Peace Laureate Liu Xiaobo, who is to have his award confirmed today.

An IFJ source said journalists received the warning on December 9 from group managers, who asked them not to note any details of Liu's case in social media platforms, including personal blogs and microblogging applications.

The warning also said that they should not re-publish or make any comments about the case, or distribute information about the staff warning to anyone outside of the company, which has 19 media outlets, including newspapers, magazines and websites in China.

The IFJ has also learned that transmission signals of Hong Kong broadcasters were blocked on December 9 by mainland authorities in Guangdong province. There are reports that a number of foreign media websites including the BBC and Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) were interrupted in Beijing.

"The IFJ has grave concerns that a media organisation would attempt to muzzle the voices of journalists and media workers and deny their fundamental right to freedom of expression," IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.

"Today, on Human Rights Day, it is a terrible thing to see evidence of the environment of self-censorship in China that accompanies the threats, harassment and censorship that is delivered by the country's propaganda mechanisms."

The IFJ encourages the All China Journalists' Association and journalists and media workers in China to refuse all directives which intrude or compromise their rights.

The IFJ also calls on China to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the country signed in 1998.

Liu Xiaobo was detained at the end of 2008 just before the release of Charter 08, a manifesto for political reform he helped to draft calling for freedom of assembly, expression and religion. On December 25, 2009, he was sentenced to eleven years in prison for inciting subversion. The ceremony in Oslo today will reserve an empty chair to signify Liu's inability to be formally presented with the coveted and influential award in person.

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