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Government continues to censor reporting on activist Chen Guangcheng

(IFJ/IFEX) - May 21, 2012 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is disappointed by the continuing actions of China's Central Propaganda Department to censor media coverage of the case of escaped blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng.

Following his escape from house arrest on April 22, and subsequent seeking of refuge at the United States Embassy in Beijing, the blind legal advocate departed from Beijing with his wife and two children to commence studies in the Unites States on May 19, 2012.

The Chinese Government's official media outlet, Xinhua News Agency, covered the story with a brief report that Chen had received his student visa to study in the United States. The report did not include his full name or the reason why he was forced to study in the United States.

Apart from Xinhua news Agency, the only media outlet to report the story was Caixin Media. However, the article was quickly removed from their website.

"From the very beginning, we have been unable to report Chen's case", a journalist told the IFJ. "Xinhua was only forced to report the story because of the overseas media coverage that he had fled to the United States Embassy in Beijing and sought refuge."

Media in China have been forbidden from independently reporting on Chen Guangcheng and his family, but are allowed to republish the comments of the Foreign Ministry of China about the case.

On May 4, at least four major metropolitan newspapers in Beijing, under the supervision of Beijing's Propaganda Department, published articles critical of the United States' 'interference' in China's internal affairs, describing Chen as representative of anti-social elements in Chinese society.

"Despite being the world's second largest economy, it is disappointing that China has failed to meet international standards with regard to transparency and openness", IFJ Asia-Pacific said.

"Instead, China's authorities continue to perceive the media as a tool for propaganda, rather than allowing it to exercise its duty to serve the public."

"The IFJ urges Liu Yunshan, Member of China's Central Committee and Director of the Central Propaganda Department, to end media censorship in China and adhere to Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution which enshrines the people's right to access to information."

Chen Guangcheng, was sentenced to prison for four years for openly criticising China's one-child policy in August 2006. Upon his release he was placed under house arrest, until his escape on April 22. On May 2, Chen was released to hospital to mend a broken leg sustained in his escape. While hospitalised, media were not allowed access to Chen, with those attempting to interview him having their press card confiscated and briefly detained.

Many of those who assisted Chen in his escape from house arrest have also been warned by government officials not to talk to the media. His nephew, Chen Kegui, was charged with intent to murder in relation to an incident that took place while he attempted to protect himself from being assaulted by the local village officers securing Chen Guangcheng.

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