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Chinese authorities censor reporting from pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong

Protesters turn on their mobile phone flashlights as they block an area outside the government headquarters building in Hong Kong, 1 October 2014
Protesters turn on their mobile phone flashlights as they block an area outside the government headquarters building in Hong Kong, 1 October 2014

REUTERS/Carlos Barria

This article was originally published on ifj.org on 30 September 2014.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has strongly criticized the internet censorship being employed by Mainland Chinese authorities as pro-democracy protests enter their fourth day in Hong Kong and has demanded that the media should be allowed to report freely in the wake of a series of attacks on media workers over recent days.

Since the start of the protests across Hong Kong on Saturday, September 27, all reports and information of the protests, including images, have been removed from the internet in Mainland China by authorities. Information and reports about Martyrs' Day and the 65th Anniversary Concert were also censored.

The pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong also referred to as the Occupy Movement and the "Umbrella Revolution", have remained an ongoing target of censorship. Reports on the deletion of content from Weibo and other social media sites including Instagram have also surfaced in the past 24 hours. According to sources, social media activity peaked at its highest level this year in China, at the same time mainland authorities quickly started deleting content. Weibo, which has 46million daily users in China has had a censorship rate of 152 censored posts per 10,000 this year. It is reported that Instagram, the photo and video-sharing service owned by Facebook Inc, has been put on lockdown by police in Hong Kong. The website www.blockedinchina.net also indicated that Instagram was blocked across China.

On Sunday, September 29, former Chinese President Jiang Zemin attended the concert marking the 65th anniversary of the Community Party ruling of China, along with the entire Polithburo Standing Committee. After the event, a number of messages online titled 'Xi Jinping and Jiang Zemin attended the Concert to mark 65th anniversary' were removed. Other messages also published expressing opinions about the seniority of Jiang were also removed. On Monday, September 30, several posts referencing senior members of the Communist Party were deleted.

The IFJ reports that this censorship has come hand in hand with a hostile environment for journalists in Hong Kong attempting to report on the protests.

The Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) said: "The excessive force employed in unnecessary and unacceptable. It is a contradiction to the freedoms and rights promised by the Basic Law. The Association would also like to salute all journalists covering the demonstrations for their courageous and professional performance in keeping the public informed of developments."

The IFJ Asia Pacific said: "The continued efforts by Chinese authorities to censor information and reports about events taking place in China and Hong Kong is a clear violation of International Human Rights and, in the case of Hong Kong, a violation of the Basic Law. We urge the Chinese Government to refrain from further censoring of information and content."

The IFJ urges all journalists to remain vigilant to personal safety while reporting during the protests and consult the IFJ Safety Guidelines on covering Demonstrations and Civil Unrest.

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