10 August 2008
IFJ Protest Over Chinese Snooping on Journalists at Work in Beijing
The International Federation of Journalists has called on the Chinese authorities to stop their snooping on journalists who are covering assignments in Beijing. The IFJ says that reported incidents of Chinese security staff in plainclothes taking photos of journalists at work is a form of intimidation that contravenes press freedom.
The IFJ call comes after a number of reports from eye-witnesses who have seen shadowed by people in plainclothes. A foreign journalist told the IFJ that two strangers with no press accreditations took photos of him and his notes on August 7 when he was interviewing an athlete from France at Beijing airport. When he challenged them they refused to talk. The journalist says in the exchange his press accreditation and nationality were checked and photographs were taken on the notes he had made.
A similar report was made when a number of foreign and Hong Kong journalists were interviewing a discontented land owner at Qianmen, Beijing.* More than five people without any press accreditation took photos and film of all journalists and the interviewee. The journalists are convinced they were working for security services.
“This is unacceptable interference in the work of journalists,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “Once again we call on the Chinese authorities to make good on their promise that journalists can work without intimidation.”
On August 9, a number of people took photos of more than a dozens of journalists and their notes outside the Drum Tower when they were reporting an American tourist was killed by a Chinese man. An IFJ representative on the spot requested an explanation from a woman who took photos of journalists and their notes. She refused to answer but when pressed said it was “out of curiosity” .
“Protection of journalistic sources is a cornerstones of press freedom,” said White. “This sort of activity shows complete disregard for that principle by the Chinese authorities.”
*Correction: due to a typographical error, this was initially reported as Tiananmen Square.