Press Freedom in China Bulletin: October

Welcome to IFJ Asia-Pacific’s monthly Press Freedom in China Campaign e-bulletin. The next bulletin will be sent onNov 8, 2015.

To contribute news or information, email ifj@ifj-asia.org. To visit the IFJ’s China Campaign page, go to http://www.ifj.org/regions/asia-pacific/press-freedom-in-china/

Please distribute this bulletin widely among colleagues in the media.

In this bulletin:

1) IFJ call for Gao Yu to be granted medical parole

2) Media restrictions issued following explosion in Guangxi

3) Senior journalist loses accreditation for reporting    

4) Mainland media continue to withhold reports  

5) A citizen journalist detained on the eve of military parade

6) Two foreign journalists were blocked in Xinjiang

7) A Mainland journalist attacked on National Day

8) Hong Kong journalists blocked from reporting football game  

9) A Japanese journalist was refused a press card

10) Media controls increasingly tightened

11) Third newspaper shut down in Shanghai

1)    IFJ call for Gao Yu to be granted medical parole

As President of China, Xi Jinping, made his first official visit to the United Nations, the IFJ issued a letter to the President demanding veteran journalist Gao Yu be granted medical parole immediately. Recently, the IFJ received information from Gao Yu’s family that the 71-year-old journalist, who was sentenced to seven years in prison in April this year for ‘revealing a state secret’, was suffering from various illnesses and was not receiving adequate medical treatment. According to the family, Gao, who has long-suffered from heart disease, high blood pressure and Meniere’s disease, also recently discovered an abnormality to her lymph node, as well as been diagnosed with dermatosis and suffering from head and tooth aches. As her health deteriorates, Gao’s family alleges that police and authorities have refused further medical treatment and are not giving her any pain relief. Gao’s legal team have applied for medical parole twice, both times been denied.

The letter, which calls on President Xi to, as a bare minimum, grant Gao Yu medical parole, highlights the impact that Gao Yu’s case and treatment has on the representation of the country’s media and judicial system to the global community.

Read the letter here

2)  Media restrictions issued following explosions in Guangxi

Following a series of explosions in Liucheng country in Guangxi on September 30 and October 1, the Central Propaganda Department and Cyber Administration Office, the two authorities responsible for media control, issued a series of restrictive orders to the media, including all social media platforms. The orders said that media outlets were not to deploy staff to the scene and surrounding areas of the explosion without prior permission, not to publish any special features of the incident, only republish reports from Xinhua and only long distance images could be used in any reports.

A number of journalists who did attend the scene reported harassment from locals and police as they attempted to interview locals. In instance, family members of one of the people killed during the explosion were taken away by police as the media tried to interview them. Local media also tried to interview government officials about the explosions, however all attempts for interviews were denied.

3) Senior journalist loses accreditation for reporting

On September 28, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) announced that 17 journalists from 15 media outlets were to be reprimanded as they had ‘manufactured fake or inaccurate news’ between December 2, 2014 and July 13, 2015. The SAPPRFT report said that authorities gave reasons for the investigations and reprimanding of journalists, but the report did not detail the investigation process. The 17 journalists, including editors and editorial teams received warning letters, reprimanding them, with 16 journalists been fined for their reporting. Wang Xing, a former journalist of the South Metropolis Daily received the strongest penalty, been handed a five year suspension, banning him from working in the media and receiving an accredited press card.

According to Xinhua, Wang was punished for ‘fabricating news about the suicide of a former Henan government official’ in September 2014 and subsequently ‘persuaded to leave’ his post with the Southern Metropolis Daily. After the Xinhua report, Wang issued a statement refuting the allegations, saying he thoroughly investigated the report and the source was a trusted member of the Henan government. Wang said that he was also not persuaded to leave his position. In May 2015, the local bureau of SAPPFRT removed Wang’s name from the accredited journalists’ list as part of his five years suspension.

4) Mainland media continue to withhold critical reports

a) In Inner Mongolia, hundreds of local herders were protesting against the appropriated of grazing land on September 6 and 7 when five were arrested by police and taken away. The next day, 400 protesters continued their protest with reports that over 500 local police and riot police attempted to stop the protest. According to the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Centre, hundreds of the protesters complained that they were beaten and arrested by police as they attempted to end the protest. No mainland media reported the incident.

b) Human Rights lawyer Li Heping’s wife, Wang Qiaoling, finally gave an interview to foreign media. In the interview she said that police had threatened her not to talk to foreign media as it would jeopardise her husband’s case. Li was arrested by police on July 10 as part of the mass arrest of human rights lawyers across China. Wang filed a lawsuit against Sinhua and the People’s Daily, both state media, for ‘conviction without trial’ due to its reporting on Li.

c) Following more than three years of detention, Human Rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng has revealed that he was tortured during his detention. In a recent report, Gao said that he was detained in solitary confinement and was regularly tortured, including electrocution attacks to his face. Gao was arrested and placed under house arrest in 2006 after he was accused of citing subversive state power. After the house arrest, Gao has gone missing of several occasions and in 2012 following one occasion he was found imprisoned in Xinjiang.

d) On September 27, veteran scholar Jiang Peikun, whose son died in the 1989 Tianamen Square Massacre, died from heart attack. Jiang and his wife, Ding Zilin, have been ‘deleted’ from all Chinese media, as they have continued to demand the Chinese authorities reveal information about the massacre. Jiang and Ding are the key figures of Tiananmen Mothers Campaign.

e) Since May, two Japanese citizens have been detained by Chinese authorities on accusations of espionage. On September 30, Asahi, Japanese daily, reported that the two were detained in Liaoning province and Zhejiang province. The following day, the Foreign Ministry released a statement saying that the two had admitted they were spies and they were in communications with the Japanese government.

5) A citizen journalist detained on the eve of military parade

On 31 August, Liu Feiyue, an administrator of online media Minshengguancha, was detained and given ten days of administrative imprisonment due to a report he published in early 2015 about the stabilisation of the government. On September 6, Liu was forced to leave the detention centre. After his release, he told the IFJ that he was detained because police were ‘upset’ by his report. His computers and other electronic devices were confiscated by police.

6) Two foreign journalists blocked in Xinjiang

a) Simon Denyer, a journalist from the Washington Post, was stopped from interviewing traders as he tried to report in the new free trade zone, Horgos, on the China-Kazakh border in mid-September. Simon told the Foreign Correspondents Club of China (FCCC) that he and his colleagues were held for two hours in Horgos. When they left the trade zone, they were taken away in a police car and had their passports and press cards repeatedly checked.

b) John Sudworth, a BBC journalist and his crew were detained by officials in Yarkand County, Kashgar, after they interviewed a local people on 15 September. When one of the policemen pushed away the crowd, the camera turned to him, and then he lunged in fury and demanded the crew to delete the footage.

7) A Mainland journalist attacked on National Day.

On October 1, National Day, Luo Guowei and Yang Zheng of Yibin Television were blocked by workers as they tried to report a deadly industrial accident. The incident, which took place on September 30, was not reported by any media. Luo said they were blocked by a number of workers and were only able to film with the assistance of some local people. Luo received bruises to his body as he was restrained as he attempted to film. The construction site issued a statement saying they were trying to protect the journalist’s safety.

8) Hong Kong journalists blocked for reporting football game

a) On 3 September, several Hong Kong journalists were blocked from reporting the FIFA World Cup ranking game in Shengzhen. According to Apple Daily, journalists were detained by police for three hours and accused of “illegal reporting”. At the same time, the police demanded the journalist write a repentance letter. Other journalists also said that they were identified and taken away by police as soon as they arrived at the stadium.

9) A Japanese journalist was refused a press card

On September 1, Akio Yaita, a journalist of Japanese newspaper Sankei, was refused a press card to cover the military parade. He was told that he “did not pass the process”, however his colleagues were all granted the press cards to cover the parade.

10) Media controls increasingly tightened

a) On September 24, the Central Propaganda Department and All China Journalists Association, state controlled media union, announced that a media ethics committee should be set up in all provinces across the nation in order to promote media to bear the social responsibility.  

b) On September 29, Tencent, a prominent online media outlet, announced that they will delete all pornographic and vulgar messages on WeChat. However it did not explain why or when this would take place. 

11) Third newspaper shut down in Shanghai

On October 1, Shanghai Business Newspaper, a newspaper focusing on reporting business news, became the third newspaper in Shanghai to shut down. On 21 September, ZhangZhuTan Newspaper in Hunan shut down. On September 10, the website of State Administration Press Publication Radio Film and Television announced that forty-four bureaus of media outlets in Guangxi had its licenses cancelled.   

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