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Foreign journalist savagely attacked by police

(IFJ/IFEX) - July 31, 2012 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the alleged assault of a Japanese journalist by Chinese police, and the censoring of independent reporting of public protests, in the city of Qidong, in China's Jiangsu Province on July 28, 2012.

According to reports, Atsushi Okudera, 41, an experienced China reporter for the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun was physically assaulted by more than a dozen policemen in Qidong while he was taking photos of police beating protestors.

"The uniformed policemen snatched away my camera and kicked me all over the body when I was pushed down onto the ground," Okudera, winner of the Vaughn-Ueda International Journalist Award in 2011, said. "I cried out 'I am a journalist' and showed my press accreditation, but they ignored it and took away my press card without returning it to me."

Okudera suffered multiple injuries, including injuries to his head as a result of the beating, and was hospitalised to undergo a CT scan and X-ray. Okudera's newspaper has lodged a formal complaint and asked for the return of his press card, camera and memory cards. The Japanese Consulate has also expressed regret over the incident.

Last Saturday, July 28, thousands of people protested over concerns that a sewage building project servicing a paper factory in Qidong had polluted local waterways. After a series of ongoing protests directed against the factory since 2010 achieved no progress, protestors protested directly against the local government for the lack of progress. During the protests, in which people overturned a police car, police detained and assaulted numerous protestors.

All news of the protests were censored by China's Central Propaganda Department, with all mainland media ordered to re-publish only the news reports from government affiliated Xinhua News Agency and not undertake independent reporting on the story. The story was also blocked from China's popular microblog platforms.

Xinhua's reports of the story omitted reference to the thousands of protestors, instead merely reporting that the local Qidong Government had decided to halt the sewage building project in order to protect the environment.

"The press should be able to report freely on events in the public interest without fear for their personal safety", said the IFJ Asia-Pacific.

"The IFJ is deeply concerned by the latest brutal attack on media personnel, and the failure of Chinese authorities to report on and properly investigate these assaults. Chinese authorities' inaction in response to these attacks effectively condones the assault and intimidation of journalists."

We urge the All Chinese Journalists Association to exercise their obligation to defend press freedom on behalf of all media personnel in China, and demand the Qidong Police Department make an official apology to Okudera and return all belongings taken during the attack.

We also urge Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Minister of Foreign Affairs Yang Jiechi to establish an investigation team, made up of journalism scholars, All Chinese Journalists Associations representatives, frontline journalists, representative of the foreign media and representative of the Police Bureau, to investigate the case and review all possible procedures to protect the safety of the media in the future.

In February this year, Remko Tanis, correspondent for RTL Nieuws, and Baptiste Fallevoz and his assistant Jack Zhang, journalists for France 24, were physically assaulted, threatened and their research materials stolen by unidentified thugs in the village of Panhe, in China's eastern Zhejiang Province.

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