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IFJ Condemns Assaults on Journalists in Eastern China

February 20, 2012

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns a series of violent attacks against journalists by unidentified thugs in the village of Panhe, in China’s eastern Zhejiang Province.

On February 15 and 16, Remko Tanis, correspondent for RTL Nieuws, and Baptiste Fallevoz and his assistant Jack Zhang, journalists for France 24, were physically assaulted, threatened and their research materials stolen by unidentified people in Panhe village, Zhejiang Province.

According to an internal alert issued by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China, and reports on foreign news websites, Remko Tanis was intercepted by a group of thugs while he was interviewing a villager who was complaining of illegal land deals by local officials in Panhe. Tanis was then physically assaulted by the thugs and forcibly pushed into a car by two officers from the local branch of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

While being escorted to the nearby town of Longang by the officers, Tanis’ car was suddenly blocked, all the occupants were pulled out from the car and Tanis was beaten a second time, with his bag being taken away by a group of unidentified people. Another car from the Foreign Affairs Office arrived later, into which Tanis and his colleagues were forcibly taken and removed back to a hotel in Longang. When his bag was returned to him, Tanis discovered that his note book, memory card and documents given to him by the villager were missing.

“Their [local government officials] objective is to get you out of their territory and not write anything down, but of course that is the opposite of what actually happens”, Tanis told Radio Netherlands Worldwide.

Another two journalists, Baptiste Fallevoz and Jack Zhang of France 24, experienced similar violence the next day in the same village. According to a report on shanghaiist.com they were followed by a car while on their way to Panhe village. Upon arrival in Pange, they were immediately surrounded by around 20-30 plainclothes thugs. Zhang was beaten and his camera smashed. Zhang sustained injuries to his head in the attack.

On February 17, the website for the propaganda department of Panhe’s Cangnan county, Wenzhou city, Zhejiang province, reported that two drivers had quarrelled on February 16, without any mention that journalists were brutally beaten on two occasions. It also reported that Baptiste Fallevoz had agreed to settle the case and had accepted compensation.

Since February 1, 2012, three separate protests have been organized by the villagers of Panhe. Protests have been sparked by allegations of illegal land deals being carried out by local officials with private developer, without local villagers being informed or provided with compensation. During the protests, three villagers were arrested by police and charged with damaging public property.

According to the Article 17 of China’s Regulations on Reporting Activities in China by Foreign Journalists, foreign journalists are free to interview all individuals in China once they have obtained the interviewee’s consent.

“The IFJ is deeply concerned by the brutal attacks on journalists in Panhe village, and the failure of Chinese authorities to report on and properly investigate these assaults”, IFJ Asia-Pacific office said.

“Chinese authorities’ inaction in response to these attacks effectively condones the assault and intimidation of journalists.

The IFJ urges the Chinese Premier Wen Jiaobo to direct the Public Security Bureau of China to open an investigation into the assaults on journalists in Panhe village.

The IFJ also urges Premier Wen to honour his promises of improved press freedom, and demand the Public Security Bureau immediately ensure its officers adhere to the regulations protecting the rights of journalists.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0950

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

Find the IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific

Find the IFJ on Facebook: www.facebook.com/IFJAsiaPacific

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ENDS

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