Foreign Journalist Detained in Beijing

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has voiced strong concern over the detention of a foreign journalist and his translator by the authorities last month.

Mark Magnier, Beijing bureau chief of the Los Angeles Times, accompanied by a translator and a lawyer visited citizens of a so-called “grievance village” in Beijing on 27th February, 2008.

A number of officials approached Magnier and his companions while he was talking to the villagers.

They were taken to a police station and held for an hour, during which time they were questioned.

Magnier later said this was not the first time he had been detained by the police but he was surprised that the officials did not seem to be familiar with new regulations allowing foreign journalists to conduct interviews with anyone in China provided that the interviewees consented.

This and other rules have been introduced by the Central authorities in the run-up to the 2008 Olympic Games supposed to show China’s openness to the world.

According to a report released by the Foreign Correspondents Club of China there had been more than 180 violations of this new rule over the past year.

The “reporting interference” included violence, destruction of journalists’ materials, detention, harassment of sources and staff, interception of communications, denial of access to public areas, being questioned in an intimidating manner by authorities and being followed.

IFJ has also expressed deep concern over the abrupt closure of an AIDS-related website by Shaanxi authorities.

The website was suddenly shut off without any explanation. It had been set up in July last year by a blogger, Chang Kun, who believed he was being targeted for writing about a land dispute on his blog.

The IFJ urges the Chinese Government to keep its promise to allow foreign journalists to conduct their work freely and to respect citizens’ rights to hold opinion without interference and free speech as enshrined in Article 19 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries