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IFJ Press Freedom in China Campaign Bulletin: February 2013

IFJ Press Freedom in China Campaign Bulletin: February 8, 2013

Welcome to IFJ Asia-Pacific’s monthly Press Freedom in China Campaign e-bulletin. The next bulletin will be sent on March 8 2013, and your contributions are most welcome. To contribute news or information, email or visit the IFJ’s China Campaign page.

1. The fifth annual Press Freedom in China Report launched

The IFJ launched the fifth annual Press Freedom in China Report titled Media at Risk: Press Freedom in China 2012 in Hong Kong on February 4, 2013. Press freedom in Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau continued to deteriorate in 2012 and the deterioration in Hong Kong was particularly stark. Media freedom continues to be restricted in China and the cases involving Wang Lijun, Gu Kaili and Chen Guangcheng are examples of this interference. Access to information by the media was restricted with the excuse that the information sought was a “State secret.” In Hong Kong, the media has experienced unprecedented interference; the most extreme example of this was when a journalist was detained by police after he posed a question to the President of China. Additionally, a photographer was criminally charged, journalists were assaulted and two media outlets were attacked. There was a great deal of political interference in the press during the elections as well. Unlike the previous open and transparent approach adopted by the Hong Kong Government towards the media, the government has been increasingly evasive with the media. Foreign journalists have faced a particularly difficult time working in the Mainland, where a prominent New York Times’ journalist had to leave the country because he was not issued a work visa reportedly based on the content of articles published in the New York Times.

2. IFJ condemns Central Propaganda Department directives forcing media to republish articles published by mouthpiece

The IFJ condemned directives made by the Central Propaganda Department forcing mainstream media to republish editorials of the Department-mouthpiece the Global Times, and the threats made against citizens who commented publicly on the Southern Weekly Magazine protests. According to reports in Hong Kong-based newspaper Ming Pao, on January 8 a Beijing-based newspaper the Beijing News Daily and the Chang Sha-based newspaper Xiao Xiang Chen Bao were asked to republish the editorial of the Global Times in support of the Authority. The Global Times has repeatedly defended the Authority after the Southern Weekly incident, accusing activists outside Mainland China of instigating the protests. On January 8 the Global Times stated “China's media policy needs reform, but media reform should be in line with China's Policies.” The editorial content of the Southern Weekly was interfered with many times by the Guangdong Propaganda Department in 2013. A number of journalists and the general public protested outside the Southern Weekly office building demanding the removal of the provincial propaganda chief Tuo Zhan. This incident also led to a labour strike by journalists which made the Central Authority very nervous promoting it to assign Hu Chunhua, Party Secretary of Guangdong Province, to handle the case directly. In addition Guangzhou police deployed a number of uniformed and plain clothes policemen to prevent demonstrations outside the office building. Some protestors were detained and questioned by the police.

3. CCTV and Xinhua journalists were harassed

According to reports, Central Television of China journalist and Xinhua News Agency reporter were harassed and beaten up by unidentified people when they were carrying out their official duties. On 11 January New Beijing Daily reported that Zhao Xi journalist of CCTV and his crew members were assaulted by more than ten people on the night of 9 January in Wushi town, Pingjiang County, Yueyang City, Hunan. One person threatened them saying “If you dare to leave, I will push you and your car into the Miluo River.” During the scuffle their cameras were thrown to the ground. According to the report, the CCTV crew was investigating an illegal paper manufacturing company at the time of in the incident. In another incident, according to the 23 January report in the Ming Pao, a Xinhua reporter was assaulted by several people when he was trying to take photos of local government officials having a meal in a restaurant in Zhengzhou City, Henan. During the assault his camera was destroyed and they took away the memory card of his camera. According to the report, the journalist was investigating whether the local police bureau was following the directives of Xi Jinping, General Secretary of Communist Party, who encouraged all levels of government to reduce official expenses. According to the report, the meal of the local police bureau cost six thousand dollars (US 962).

4. Citizen journalist tortured during imprisonment

Xu Chongyang, a citizen journalist, revealed that he had been tortured repeatedly during his 18 month imprisonment. A citizen journalist of Boxun, a US-based website, made this revelation when he was released from prison on 5 January 2013. According to a 14 January report of Radio Free Asia, Xu had disclosed that his hands and legs were handcuffed and that he was forced to swallow some drugs which he suspects caused him to lose his hair and caused a skin disease. He also said: “I have three broken ribs and three of my teeth were removed. I was deprived of sleep and humiliated by them all the time. I’m suffering from breathing problems and am unable to dress myself.” Xu was initially charged with spying for a US intelligence organization but later charges were changed to deception. In December 2011, he was sentenced to 18 months in prison and fined 59,000 Yuan (US 9,462). However Xu claims that he was punished as retaliation for his criticism of local government officials. In another case, Zhu Chengzhi, who was investigating the suspicious death of his best friend Li Wangyang, was released on 1 February 2013 after being under police detention for 238 days by the police in Shaoyang, Hunan. According to a 2 February report in Ming Pao, Zhu is unaware of the reason he was placed in detention but suspects that although he was originally charged with subversion of state power, the real reason for his detention is because he voiced his suspicions about Li’s death and helped the media investigate it.

5. Media blocked from two major meetings in Guangdong Province

The National People’s and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference commenced in Guangdong Province on 25 January 2013. Although the Communist Party of Guangdong Province wanted to create the impression transparency by opening the meetings to the public, journalists from Hong Kong and Macau were prevented from attending the meeting. They were moved to a location which prevented them from having access to the meetings.

6. IFJ joins affiliate HKJA in calling on the HK Government to respect media rights

The International Federation of Journalists joins its affiliate the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) in calling on the Government of Hong Kong to withdraw amendments to the Companies Ordinance which limits public access to information. The Hong Kong Government is proposing subsidiary legislation which will restrict access to information contained in the company registries, severely hindering media investigations into crimes such as money laundering and the abuse of power. HKJA initiated a signature campaign and collected more than a thousand of signatures supporting the call to withdraw the amendments. After negotiating with different media organizations the Hong Kong Government agreed to an exemption for the media. However the HKJA and the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong have refused to accept the government stand, and continue to demand that the registry remain open to the public. Hong Kong has over one million private registered companies and the media has been accessing company registries for many years without any complaints of misuse of information. However information about the wealth of the families of Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping and Premier Wen Jiabao was accessed by two international media organizations through the Hong Kong Company Registry.

7. International media accuse Chinese hackers of infiltrating computer systems

At least three prominent American media outlets accused Chinese hackers of infiltrating their computer systems. The media outlets targeted had published reports revealing information about Premier Wen Jiabao’s family wealth. On 30 January, The New York Times reported that their computer systems had been infiltrated by Chinese hackers for at least four months. It was reported that the timeframe for the breach coincided with the publishing of an investigative report about how Premier Wen’s family had accumulated several billion dollars of wealth. The NYT cyber security expert detected a breach in the email accounts of Shanghai Bureau Chief, David Barboza—who wrote the reports on the Wen family, and Jim Yardley, former Beijing Bureau Chief. The NYT said that the hackers targeted journalists who had written about Chinese leaders and about political , legal issues in China , Huawei and Zhongxing Telecommunication Equipment Corporation. After New York Times revealed being hacked, others including Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and Twitter admitted that they had also been infiltrated by hackers who were, suspiciously, from China.

8. Taiwan Public Television Service board subjected to political manipulation

The management of Taiwan’s public television service is under fire. On 18 January, the committee reviewing nominations for the Board of Directors and Board of Supervisors of the Public Television Service were unable to nominate the necessary 17 members for one board. Instead, according to various reports in Taiwan, the terms of the original board members and the supervisors have been extended for more than two years. These board members represent different political parties. The outcome immediately drew the attention of the media industry including our affiliate, the Taiwan Journalists Association. Some of the commentators suggest that it was impossible to get agreement on the composition of the boards due to conflicts between the parties. The Democratic Progressive Party accused the Chinese Nationalist Party of manipulating media and suggested amendments to three major laws which allow this manipulation, including the Cable Radio and Television Act, the Radio and Television Act, and the Satellite Broadcasting Act.

IFJ Asia-Pacific

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

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