The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns an attack on a BBC TV crew by unidentified people when the media team was trying to report on a petitioner in Hunan Province.
BBC journalist John Sudworth reported on March 3 that he and his TV crew were attacked, harassed and forced to sign a statement admitting they had conducted an “illegal interview” with a petitioner. The report said a group of people blocked the way when Sudworth and the crew were going to the interviewee’s house. When the crew kept going, the unidentified people assaulted them and smashed their cameras.
The BBC crew eventually left the village but the group of about 20 people followed and surrounded them, according to Sudworth’s report. The crew saw some uniformed police officers and two officials from the local foreign affairs office among the group. The BBC team were forced to delete some of their footage and to sign a statement admitting they had conducted an “illegal interview” and were guilty of “behaviour causing a bad impact”.
According to the footage that survived, the people were abusive and attacked the crew without giving a reason. A crew member’s hand was injured and cameras were broken. Sudworth said: “For the first time in my long reporting experience in China I found myself apologising for ‘behaviour causing a bad impact’ and trying to conduct an ‘illegal interview’.”
On March 3, the National Congress of China started its two plenary meetings in Beijing. Many petitioners were either forced to stay at their homes by local government officials or agents. If they succeeded in getting to Beijing, were taken away from the city. Many government officers and agents conduct surveillance every day in Beijing. If they see any unfamiliar people, they report this to their local council or police.
Media and social media platform have also been instructed to escalate surveillance of all posted messages in order to ensure no negative information is posted. The official website of a feminist civil society organization was suddenly shut down for two weeks without any reason being given.
The IFJ said: “It is deeply worrying that government officials stand by and allow people to use violence to attack media workers when they are legitimately exercising their duties by conducting an interview with a person who had agreed to give the interview under the regulations implemented after the Olympic Games in 2008. This right has been clearly guaranteed by the State Council for almost 10 years. However, some officials have deliberately ignored the regulations and disregarded President Xi Jinping’s repeated statements that civil servants must not abuse their power.”
We urge Xu Dazhe, acting governor of Hunan, to investigate the case promptly. He should apologise to the media crew and destroy the so-called “confession” letter.
We also urge Wang Yi, Minister of Foreign Affairs, to investigate the case and punish the officers in Hunan who abused their power and deliberately ignored the regulations handed down by the State Council in 2008.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946
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