Journalists attacked and arrested covering protests in China

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) condemn the attack and arrest of at least eight Hong Kong and foreign journalists as they attempted to cover a large protest in Wukan village in Guangdong Province. The IFJ demands an immediate investigation into the incident. On September 14, at least eight journalists and photographers from Ming Pao Daily, HK01, South China Morning Post (SCMP) and Reuters were arrested by more than a dozen riot police. The journalists were in Wukan village covering a large protest, which police were trying to pacify. At least three of the media workers were arrested in a locals house when it was raided by over 20 riot police, while others were arrested outside the village. According to the arrested journalists, when they were arrested they immediately identified themselves and showed their accreditation, as well as following police instruction. However they were pushed to the ground, accused of stealing, slapped and punched by police. All of the arrested journalists were taken to Lufeng police station where they were interrogated by officers from the local propaganda department, local police department and officers from the External Affairs Propaganda Department. One journalist, who was carrying a Mainland press accreditation card told the IFJ that, “Police were really hostile to us. They banged the table, nearly touching my forehead, they scolded and yelled at us. They accused us of illegally entering the banned village. However I do not think they have the right to ban us while I have the accreditation from the authority of China. The act is a violation of press freedom.” During almost two hours of interrogation, the journalists were threated and asked who they had contacted and how they accessed the village which is currently surrounded by police. Police also tried to access their text and photo messages. When they were released, they were all forced to sign a consent letter which said they would not return to the village. Police escorted the journalists to Shenzhen, where they returned to Hong Kong. According to a Hong Kong report, a local from Wukan said that the local government had warned the local that they could not assist journalists in accessing the village and if they did they, including their family, would be arrested. In addition, people will be awarded 20,000 yuan (USD 3,000) if they report any journalists in Wukan to police. Mainland media did not cover the large scale protests in Wukan on September 13. According to reports, more than 3,000 riot police surrounded Wukan village and arrested at least 70 locals who were accused of organizing illegal portests against the local government. Riot police used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the protest, which left dozens of locals injured. Local government agencies released a statement about the protest, praising the cooperation between the police and locals. The statement also said the government was working to track down those disseminating ‘false’ information. The IFJ Asia Pacific Office said: “The actions of the local police against the media are totally unacceptable. Since 2012 the IFJ has lobbied the government and the President of China over our concerns for media freedom with journalists been banned from accessing and reporting on Wukan village. The situation has continued to worsen.”  We join HKJA in demanding the Hong Kong Government to take action to protect the rights of the media and encourage all the newly elected lawmakers of Hong Kong Legislative Council to demand the Hong Kong Government to exercise their duty.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946

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