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IFJ Press Freedom in China Campaign Bulletin - May 2011

(IFJ/IFEX) - May 8, 2011 - In this bulletin:

To IFJ Asia-Pacific affiliates and friends,

In this bulletin:

1. New Office to Tighten Grip on Internet
2. IFJ Urges Action to Find Journalists Missing in China
3. Propaganda Department Silences Labor Rights Case
4. Scholar Threatened After Publishing Article Critical of Mao Zedong
5. Tibet Documentary Barred from Broadcast, Copies Seized
6. Hong Kong Journalists Self-Censoring, Public Believes
7. Working Conditions, Low Pay, Force Journalists Out of Industry
8. Transport Giant Threatens Media in Hong Kong

1. New Office to Tighten Grip on Internet

China is set to further to tighten censorship on the internet with the establishment the State Internet Information Office, following calls in the country for "jasmine" revolution-style protests similar to those in Middle East and North Africa. Announced on May 4, authorities claimed the office would help improve coordination among government ministries and agencies that have oversight of the internet. Senior staff members include Zhang Xinfeng, the Vice-Minister of the Police Bureau and the head of the new office is Wang Chen, who is also the Director of the State Council Information Office, the Deputy-head of the Central Propaganda Department and member of the National Committee of China. President of China Hu Jintao on February 19 urged stricter government management of the internet a day before the February 20 "jasmine" protest calls spread to China. When he met the leaders of Communist Party, Hu said officials needed to come to grips with the "virtual society" online.

2. IFJ Urges Action to Find Journalists Missing in China

The IFJ is deeply concerned for the welfare of Caijing magazine junior journalist Zhang Jialong, 23, who disappeared on April 28, according to reports. The journalist was reportedly at dinner when he was approached by a person who claimed to represent Beijing police and asked Zhang to leave with him. Zhang has not made contact with family, friends or his employer since. "He is just a reporter - people should talk with his employer if there are any questions," Zhang's father said in an online message appealing for more information on the journalist's whereabouts. The content of the message has since been deleted. A Mainland journalist said Zhang has been released but is refusing to talk about what happened. After calls for "jasmine" revolution-style protests spread across China in early February, scores of people have disappeared without explanation. It is estimated that more than 100 people are being detained, including journalist Wen Tao and dissident artist Ai Weiwei, as well as human rights lawyers, human rights activists, bloggers and other artists. Wen, 38, who was dismissed from the online portal Global Times English http://www.globaltimes.cn/ , which is associated with the government-run People's Daily, was reported missing on April 3. On the same day, his colleague Ai Weiwei was detained by immigration officers at Beijing international airport as he was about to depart for Hong Kong. Before he disappeared, Wen reported that the editor-in-chief of Global Times had requested he no longer work for the outlet.

See: http://asiapacific.ifj.org/en/articles/ifj-urges-action-to-find-journalist-missing-in-china
http://asiapacific.ifj.org/en/articles/ifj-demands-information-on-journalist-missing-in-china

3. Propaganda Department Silences Labor Rights Case

The Central Propaganda Department on May 2 restricted all media from reporting on a an incident where a person was illegally detained in a psychiatric hospital for four years after making repeated requests to his employer for workplace entitlements. Xu Wu, 43, was reportedly detained in Wuhan psychiatric hospital after repeatedly asking employer Wuhan Steel Factory for fair payment. After refusing a settlement offered by the company, Xu was taken by police in December 2006 and detained in Wuhan Steel Factory Number 2 Hospital after he appealed his case to the authorities in Beijing. Xu escaped from the hospital on April 19, 2011, but he was again taken Wuhan and Guangzhou police officer after he accepted an interview from broadcaster Southern Television in Guangzhou. The case has seen widespread media attention, with journalists also being harassed for reporting on it. Ji Xuguang of Southern Metropolis Newspaper and Wang Saijing of 21 Century Business Herald published stories on the case on microblogging applications. Ji said he was roughed up by several securities of the hospital April 29 and reported the case to police who have not investigated the incident. Wang reported that she was prevented from meeting an interviewee by hospital security officers who encouraged her to report the matter to police. When police officers arrived at the scene, they forced her to accompany them to the local police station and confiscated her camera.


4. Scholar Threatened After Publishing Article Critical of Mao Zedong

The IFJ is deeply concerned that a prestigious scholar, Mao Yushi, received threats after Caixin magazine website uploaded an article he penned on Mao Zedong on April 26. Mao Yushi's article pointed out that Mao Zedong, the former leader of the Communist Party, should be responsible for numerous of people who lost their lives during the three-year Famine Disaster and the Cultural Revolution and further commented that people were wrong to obsess about Mao as a god rather than a man. Mao told IFJ that after the article was published a man phoned Mao's office telling his secretary that he will ask people to beat him up because of the article. "I have received various hostile responses in my life when I have made public speeches, however this time was quite special," Mao added. The article and its supportive messages were deleted from the website soon after the threat was made. "I don't know the article was deleted and I don't know who gave the order," Mao said.

5. Tibet Documentary Barred from Broadcast, Copies Seized

Documentary film Hope in the Disaster was barred from broadcast, sale or uploading to the internet by the government of Autonomous Tibetan Region. Radio Free Asia reported on April 15 that the film was shot by Tibetan monks who assisted the evacuation of the Yushu earthquake in Sichuan province in 2010, who also expressed their wishes to maintain their Tibetan culture in the film, the report said. The government did not provide any explanation for blocking the broadcast and a restaurant was reportedly fined screening the film. Government officials have also confiscated all DVD copies of the film.


6. Hong Kong Journalists Self-Censoring, Public Believes

The people of Hong Kong could be losing faith in the domestic media, according to a new survey conducted by the University of Hong Kong. Robert Chung Ting-yiu, director of the university's Public Opinion Program on April 26 published a report on the survey which found 54 per cent of respondents believed that the media self-censored and only 30 per cent reported the news responsibly. Chung said that people might be losing faith in the media due to the reluctance to criticise the Central Government. Mak Yin-ting, Chairperson of IFJ affiliate the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) said that self-censorship has been happening for some time and the poll reflected how censorship becomes internalised within the practice of journalists.

7. Working Conditions, Low Pay, Force Journalists Out of Industry

Hong Kong media is also facing the loss of experienced journalists, with a HKJA survey published on May 1 finding that 31 per cent of journalists who admitted they had looked at job advertisements outside the industry. The same number of respondents said that they would leave the industry within 1-2 years, with low income and long working hours the main reasons for wishing to depart. The survey found the median remuneration is HKD 12,000-15,000, (around USD 1500-1900) per month with 75 per cent of respondents earning HKD 20,000 (around USD 2500) or less. Only 7 per cent earned more than HKD 30,000 (around USD 3800).

8. Transport Giant Threatens Media in Hong Kong

Hong Kong public transport giant MTR threatened all print and broadcast media with the withdrawal of advertising if they reported negatively about the company. On April 19, 15 media outlets received a letter from MTR that claimed that the company reserved the right to "cancel or reschedule any media insertion booked" with any organisation that published "negative news coverage about the brand image of the MTR Corporation". The letter said this also applied to negative coverage of "rail incidents that happened in other markets" which the local audience might associate with the MTR. The agency also asked the media to "communicate clearly to your internal staff including traffic team and editors/journalists". MTR's acting chief executive officer Thomas Ho Hang-Kwong explained that the company had no intention of suppressing press freedom and the wrongdoer was its media consultancy firm Optimum Media Direction (OMD) which has worked for MTR for more than 7 years. The Hong Kong Government, MTR's largest shareholder, also said that they were unaware of the letter. HKJA Chairperson Mak Yin-ting said the threat was unacceptable and demanded the government to investigate the case. The Hong Kong News Executives' Association also expressed concern.

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