Pressures Weaken Public Interest Reporting in China

  

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is concerned that journalists

and media outlets in China are not reporting on harassment of human rights

lawyers by the government-run Beijing Justice Bureau and the Beijing Lawyers’

Association due to fear of potential repercussions from China’s authorities.

 

A mainland journalist, who asked

to remain anonymous, told the IFJ

that no

media outlet had reported on any of the 22 cases of human

rights lawyers being harassed after

they alleged malpractice

by the Beijing Lawyers’ Association and the Beijing Justice Bureau.

 

“The failure of local media to report on the concerns of

lawyers acting in human rights cases highlights the powerful way in which

official attempts to suppress reporting on matters of public interest has an

effect even without official restrictions,” IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.

 

The lawyers were reportedly warned their licences would be suspended by the end of May if they continued to assist victims of human rights

abuses or

took up sensitive cases related to Tibet, freedom of expression and religion, and the government’s alleged illegal repossession

of land, the journalist said.

 

“The suppression of news of human rights lawyers is just

like the June 4 Tiananmen Massacre. Both of them are taboo for the Central

Government,” the journalist said.

 

The accusations against the Beijing Justice Bureau and the Beijing

Lawyers’ Association include allegations that the organisations instructed law

firms to rescind employment contracts of lawyers involved in human rights cases

against the Chinese authorities.

 

Jiang Tianyong,

one of the targeted lawyers, told the

IFJ that two lawyers had been brutally bashed by police officials in the past

few months. “We have received various kinds of harassment since February,” Jiang said.

 

“Journalists worldwide are obliged by their professional

duties to research and report on allegations of malpractice by any organisation

or authority, including government

bodies. China

is no exception,” White said.

 

“China’s

commitment to greater transparency and respect for the public’s right to know is

clearly stated in the preamble of the Human Rights Action Plan of China

2009-2010. Until journalists are able to report freely without fear of

ramifications, this is yet another

empty promise.”

 

For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +612 9333 0919

 

The IFJ

represents over 600,000 journalists in

120 countries worldwide