Media workers harassed at protests in China

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) strongly criticizes the actions by members of a Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team in China, who assaulted a television crew at a protest and took their equipment.

On May 19, a television crew from Al Jazeera were harassed, threatened and assaulted by members of a SWAT team, a military unit, as they covered a large protest in Linshui County, in Guang’an city, Sichuan. The riot police were attempted to stop the protest that was in its second day, when the crew were attacked.

According to Adrian Brown, an Al Jazeera journalist, his colleague Ling Pei was forced to lay face down on the ground by an officer, while another colleague, Paul Sutton was struck on the back and his camera and tripod were confiscated. The team immediately fled the protest following the attack. The camera was eventually returned, but all footage from the memory card was gone.

Adrian Brown said: “A 4x4 vehicle with tinted windows suddenly screeched to a halt beside us. Four men dressed in black battle clothing and armed with assault rifles and shotguns came running towards us, shouting out orders in Mandarin to lie on the ground.”

During the protest, the television crew were escorted by a local minder sent by the local propaganda unit to assist with their duties. However the SWAT team ignored the minder and the media status of the group.

IFJ Asia Pacific said: “Regardless of the Chinese Constitution and regulation issued by the State Council during the Olympic Games in 2008, confirming the right of the people to protests, local governments and police continue to turn a blind eye as police crackdown on incidents.”

“Violence is unacceptable, and SWAT officers do not have a right to assault anyone, media workers included. The local government officials should assist and protect media workers to exercise their duties.”

We urge the Governor of Sichuan, Wei Hong and the Communist Party Secretary, Wang Bongming, to conduct an investigation and make a public apology to the media workers and Al Jazeera. 

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

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries

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