IFJ Appeal to UN Over Abuse of Journalists Covering 'Jasmine Revolution' Protests

March 8, 2011

 

Ms Navanethem Pillay

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

Palais des Nations

CH-1211 Geneva

10

Switzerland

Via email: civilsociety@ohchr.org

 

 

 

Re: China’s Abuse

of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

 

 

Dear Ms Pillay,

 

We are writing to express our grave concerns regarding

the latest suppression of press freedom in China, which began on February 20, 2011.

 

We understand that China has a different understanding

about press freedom and its roles and responsibilities. However, the State

Council of the People’s Republic of China

extended the rights of all foreign, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan journalists reporting the news in China in

the lead up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and, after international pressure,

upheld these changes after the Games. The IFJ believes that China is

obliged to keep the promises made to journalists and media workers in order to

ensure robust independent reporting of events in the country.

 

According to regulation 17 of Regulations of the People’s

Republic of China Concerning

Reporting Activities of Permanent Offices of Foreign Media Organisations and

Foreign Journalists; regulation 6 of Regulations for Hong Kong and Macau and

regulation 7 for Taiwan

after the Olympic Games in 2008 and 2009 respectively, journalists are required

to obtain an interviewee’s consent when preparing reports.

 

The IFJ learned that serious violations of these

regulations began in February 2011 when journalists were harassed, assaulted

and detained by the authorities, in many cases by police officers, simply for

reporting the news. A number of foreign journalists were blocked from entering

a village in Shangdong when they attempted to interview human rights activist

Chen Guangcheng, who was jailed for campaigning against China’s one-child

policy and was released in September 2010 after completing his four and a half

year sentence only to be immediately placed under house arrest with his wife.

The journalists were pushed and had stones thrown at them by plainclothes

officers.

 

The IFJ is greatly concerned that journalists were

targeted when covering “jasmine revolution” protests in the country on February

20 and 27. Journalists from non-mainland media outlets including Bloomberg TV,

BBC, CNN, Deutsche Presse-Agentur, German-based broadcaster ARD, Voice of America,

Hong Kong-based broadcasters including ATV, TVB,

Cable TV, RTHK and Taiwan-based SanliTV were harassed, assaulted, detained and interrogated

by police of China.

In one case a Bloomberg TV reporter was pushed to the ground by police and then

assaulted by an unknown attacker. Police officers witnessing the attack failed

to intervene and assist the journalist. Journalists were also threatened by

police officers that working visas might not be extended if they continued to

report on the protests.

 

The regulations that apply to Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan journalists working in China only

require that journalists work in accordance with the law. Under the

regulations, China

will protect journalists’ lawful rights and facilitate news coverage and reporting

activities that are carried out according to the law. However in recent weeks police

not only failed to protect journalists but also laid down a series of new rules

designed to specifically block journalists’ rights under the law. Police

demanded that journalists registered before reporting from particular public

areas such as Wangfujing, Beijing,

a proposed destination for further ‘jasmine’ protests.

 

Chinese writers Ran Yunfei and Ye Du were detained on

February 20 and are understood to have been charged by police with inciting

subversion of state power without explanation. The writers’ family members

strongly believe they were charged because police presumed they were involved

in the ‘jasmine’ protests. The two writers have not yet been released and there

are reports that other bloggers and writers are also being held in detention.

 

According to Article 19 of the UDHR, every person has the

right to freedom of expression and rights to access and distribute information.

Since February however, all mainland China

media has been ordered not to report the ‘jasmine’ protests while foreign media

experienced high levels of harassment and acts of intimidation from China’s

authorities as outlined above. The result is the great majority of citizens of

mainland China

have been left in the dark about what has been happening in their communities.

 

The IFJ strongly believes that China, as a permanent member of

United Nations and a current member

of the Human Rights Council, must stand up as a progressive role model to other

nations by upholding universal covenants to which it subscribes. Essential to

this is the need for China

to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in order to

allow citizens’ fundamental right to freedom of expression.

 

We welcome the Human Rights Council’s recent expression

of deep concern regarding the uprising in Libya

and journalists who were harassed in Egypt

and Libya.

The IFJ respectfully requests that the Council adopt an equally strong position

on the recent developments in China,

as the strength and the intensity of the recent clampdown is a clear sign of

regressive moves by the country’s administration regarding freedom of the press

and freedom of expression.

 

 

Yours sincerely

 

Aidan White

General Secretary