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
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
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
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.
further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0950
The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131
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