Information withheld following Monastery fire in Tibet

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) strongly criticises the latest decision by the Government of China to delay the release of critical information in Tibet.

Credit: Twitter

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) strongly criticises the latest decision by the Government of China to delay the release of critical information in Tibet.

On February 17, 2018, several media outlets reported that a fire had broken out at the Jokhang Monastery in Lhasa, Tibet. The Monastery is more than 1,000 years old, and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Footage was posted online which showed fire engulfing the Monastery 6pm. However, it wasn’t until 10pm that China Tibet Online confirmed the fire at the Monastery, confirming only minor details. The report did not outline the cause of the blaze, but did confirm that there were no injuries. The following day, the local Communist Party secretary of Tibet visited the site, emphasising that no cultural relics were damaged. However messages about the visit that were posted online were quickly deleted.

In 2008, unrest broke out in Tibet during which at least 18 people were killed. According to local administration, the protests were organised by separatists and orchestrated by the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader. The Dalai Lama denied the accusations, and said that the unrest was due to longstanding disconnect between the local Han Chinese and Tibetan monks.

Journalists, local and foreign have often struggled to gain access to Tibet, with visa restrictions regularly placed and travel bans executed during official visits and key days. The government often arranges ‘media tours’ of Tibet to give foreign journalists restricted access.

The IFJ Asia Pacific Office said: “Press freedom and access to information are basic rights of citizens, yet they are regularly withheld by the Government of China. Withholding information about incidents of public interest is fast becoming a go-to response by the government in an attempt to control the flow of information, yet it works to simply raise more questions about incidents and the government.”

The IFJ calls on the Politburo Standing Committee of China to demand all levels of government respect the people’s access to information and uphold the law, releasing information to the public promptly.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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