Media organisations criticize government actions against media in China

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), along with the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Hong Kong and the Independent Commentators Association, in strongly criticizing the Shenwei Government’s interference with media coverage of protests in Wukan village on June 21, 2016. The IFJ demands immediate action from the government to end the interference and intimidation of media workers.

On June 17, Communist Party secretary and the former elected chief of Wukan village, Lin Zuluan was arrested. Following his arrest, local villagers organized a protest, with Hong Kong media outlets sending journalists to cover. On June 21, the Shenwei Government organized a press conference, without notice for accredited media, regarding the escalating conflict between Wukan villagers and local village officers. During the press conference, the Government spokesperson named two Hong Kong media outlets, Apple Daily and Initium media, accusing the outlets of ‘inciting, orchestrating and directing (events) in Wukan village’. The spokesperson went on to say that the government would exercise measures according to the law.

Following the press conference, a list, referred to as a ‘media-list’ was disseminated online, without a clear source. Some of the media listed however, had not sent journalists to cover the protests in Wukan village.

The IFJ has since learned that two other Hong Kong-based media outlets, the South China Morning Post and Ming Pao Daily, had received calls from the China Liaison Office in Hong Kong, an agent of the Chinese Government, to ask for the personal details of journalists currently working in Wukan village.

Following the accusations made by the Shinwei Government, a number of journalists left Wukan village, fearing their own safety and villagers ended the protests.

One Hong Kong journalist said: “When we were heading to the village, there were a lot of road blocks on the main street. Some of the vehicles were checked by policemen.” she added “we are a bit worry after the accusation though all media including Hong Kong and overseas media did not involve in any protest or even orchestrating any event.”

Another photojournalist added: “This is my first time to hear such an accusation with openly attacking a particular media outlet while I have had quite some experience working in Mainland. We actually did not feel any changes after the announcement and did not get any trouble when we leave the village and Mainland.”

In a separate incident on June 20, Qian Hanpei, the vice may of the East China Sea Town, used his hand and umbrella to try, cover and conceal himself, and hit two cameramen as they tried to report the escalating conflict in Wukan village. When journalists tried to protect the cameramen and demanded Qian stop, Qian verbally attacked the media.

The IFJ Asia Pacific Office said: “The continued use of televised confessions by the Chinese government is a tool of intimidation and an attempt to silence critical and dissident voices. Since January 2016, the IFJ has recorded five televised confessions.”

“The IFJ also criticizes the actions of the Shanwei government against the Hong Kong media who were covering the protests. Ensuring press freedom and the safety of the media should be paramount to the local government. The allegations against Apple Daily and Initium are an attack on press freedom and another tool of intimidation.”

Following the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008, the Hong Kong media has professed disagreement with the actions of the Central authority against the rights of the Hong Kong media and a free press on the Mainland. Since 2008, Hong Kong media have struggle to get press accreditation from the China Liaison Office and Mainland officials when sensitive events are taking place on the Mainland.

We urge Zhu Xiaodan, Governor of Guangdong Province, to demand Liu Xiaotao, mayor of Shantou City to conduct a thorough investigation about the case and report the findings to the public.

We also urge Governor Zhu to clearly instruct all levels of Government that they have a duty to uphold the Article 35 of Chinese Constitution which specifies one of the core values of press freedom.  

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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