IFJ Condemns China Attack on Belgian TV Crew

The International

Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called for a full investigation by Chinese

authorities after a Belgian television reporter and his team were harassed and

beaten up by local officials while trying to film a report on the AIDS crisis.

Journalist Tom Van De

Weghe and his broadcast crew working for VRT, the Flemish public broadcast

network, were working in the Shanqui district of Henan province last week when

they were targeted by local officials who physically assaulted them,

confiscated material and ordered them out of the area.

"This correspondent,

together with his cameraman and his assistant, were victims of a lawless

attack," said Aidan White, IFJ

General Secretary. "The Chinese authorities must investigate the incidents and

ensure those responsible are brought to justice."  The IFJ says that the attack flies in the

face of new media rules which give foreign reporters the right to talk to

Chinese citizens.

The incidents occurred

as the crew visited Henan

for a report on AIDS, in connection with World Aids Day.  Some one million

patients in the region contracted  HIV infection by selling their own


Van De Weghe and his

crew had set up appointments with some NGOs that take care of Aids orphans. 

When they arrived they found the local NGO workers were formally forbidden to

speak to them and the director of an orphanage

they planned to visit was placed under house arrest. 

" Nevertheless some

NGO workers did cooperate," said Van De Weghe, "They took care of arranging

transportation and a guide, a woman who herself is an AIDS patient."

However, the crew was

shadowed during the visit by two armoured vans. After an interview with an AIDS

patient, they were stopped on the road. Ten men appeared and surrounded their

car demanding that they hand over the interview tape. They then opened the boot

and took 10 empty tapes. 

They told the crew who

protested that they were acting outside the law: ‘Here in Henan

we are the law and we will break every bone in your body if you stay in Henan.'   Later on

their way to the airport they were attacked by the same group. Van De Weghe was

punched in the head, his cameraman hit in the face and his assistant suffered

blows to the chest. Their luggage was ransacked and personal cash and some

camera equipment stolen. The attackers then ordered the driver to take them to

the airport where they caught a flight to Beijing.    

For more information contact

the IFJ at +32 2 235 2207

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120

countries worldwide