Chinese Government Stifles Querying of Storm Death Toll

 

The International

Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the Chinese Government’s censoring of

questions at a press conference on July 25 that related to the official death

toll from the severe storm that hit the country’s capital, Beijing, on Saturday July 21.

 

Beijing was hit by a severe storm which killed approximately 77 people and caused

severe economic loss. The local government held a press conference the following

day, during which it released the official death toll. However, it was believed

by many that this figure significantly under-reported the true number of

deceased.

 

On July 25, another press

conference was held in Beijing

by the government’s Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters. According to

Chinese newspaper Chang Jiang Daily, only

media representatives from government-affiliated media organisations Xinhua, China

Daily, China Central Television and Beijing Television were allowed to ask

questions.

 

During the conference,

none of the designated media queried the official death toll. It is reported

that a journalist from China Central Television asked for the death toll number

as the government officials were leaving, but received no response.

 

According to reports, one

of the four media representatives admitted that they were ordered not to pose

any questions at the press conference relating to the official death toll, with

the explanation that this topic was “relatively sensitive”.

 

Many Chinese netizens also

complained that their online comments criticising the Beijing Government’s poor

management of the disaster were deleted from the internet. The report in Chang Jiang Daily was also removed from

the paper’s website.

 

According to a report by

the Ming Pao Daily newspaper, its

senior management was advised by the government not to repost the Chiang Jiang Daily article on their

website.

 

The local Beijing

government finally announced the updated death toll on July 25.

 

“The behaviour of China’s

government officials in this case clearly violates the country’s Emergency Response Law, that provide

that the local government has a duty to disseminate information to the public

in order to protect people’s safety ”, IFJ Asia-Pacific said.

 

“The media should not be

forbidden from raising questions of great public concern, such as this, which

serve to protect public safety.”

 

The IFJ urges Chinese

Premier Wen Jiabao to ensure Chinese Government officials stop their practice

of directing or censor media questions, and lift restrictions on the use of the

internet to discuss and report on topics of public interest.

 

For

further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0950 

 

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131

countries

 

Find the IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific

 

Find the IFJ on Facebook: www.facebook.com/IFJAsiaPacific