IFJ Press Freedom in China Campaign Bulletin - August 2012
IFJ Press Freedom in China Campaign Bulletin - August 2012
Welcome to IFJ Asia-Pacific’s monthly Press Freedom in China Campaign e-bulletin. The next bulletin will be sent on September 8, 2012, and contributions are most welcome.
1) Savage Attack on Foreign Journalist in China
The IFJ condemned the alleged assault of a Japanese journalist, Atsushi Okudera by Chinese police, in the city of Qidong, in China’s Jiangsu Province on July 28, 2012. Okudera, journalist for Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun was reportedly physically assaulted by more than a dozen uniformed policemen in Qidong while he was taking photos of police beating protestors. “I cried out ‘I am a journalist’ and showed my press accreditation, but they ignored it and took away my press card without returning it to me” Okuedera said. The newspaper has lodged a formal complaint and asked for the return of his press card, camera and memory cards. On July 28, thousands of people protested over concerns that a sewage building project servicing a paper factory in Qidong had polluted local waterways. However, China’s Central Propaganda Department ordered all mainland media to re-publish only the news reports from government affiliated Xinhua News Agency and not to undertake independent reporting on the story. Xinhua’s reports of the story omitted reference to the thousands of protestors, instead merely reporting that the local Qidong Government had decided to halt the sewage building project in order to protect the environment. The IFJ urges the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Minister of Foreign Affairs Yang Jiechi to establish an investigation team, made up of journalism scholars, All Chinese Journalists Associations representatives, frontline journalists, representative of the foreign media and representative of the Police Bureau, to investigate the case and review all possible procedures to protect the safety of the media in the future.
2) Removal of Senior Media Personnel in China
The IFJ expressed its deep concern over the recent removal of senior staff from two Chinese newspapers, both in apparent responses to political pressure. Lu Fumin, Editor-in-Chief for Xin
Kuai Daily (New Express in English), a newspaper based in China’s southern Guangdong province, and Publisher Lu Yan and Vice-Publisher Sun Jian of the Shanghai-based Dong Fang Daily were reportedly removed or suspended from their duties in mid-July. Lu was removed from his post at Xin Kuai Daily and moved to sister newspaper, the Yangcheng Evening Post, as an editor on Monday July 16. The decision to move Lu is believed to be related to his decision to re-publish an article detailing the political origins of several current members of China’s politburo, including Deputy President Xi Jinping. Although no reason was given for the sudden removal of Publisher Lu Yan and the suspension of Vice-Publisher Sun Jian, many in the media community suspected that it was prompted by the Dong Fang Daily’s publication of an article in May which accused China’s government-owned corporations of stifling the country’s economic development.
3) Chinese Government Stifles Querying of Storm Death Toll
The IFJ condemned the Chinese Government’s censoring of questions at a press conference on July 25 that related to the official death toll from the severe storm that hit Beijing, on Saturday July 21. The severe storm killed more than 70 people and caused severe economic loss. The local government held a press conference and released an official death toll on the following day, but it was widely believed that the figure was significantly under-reported.
At another press conference in Beijing on July 25, according to Chinese newspaper Chang Jiang Daily, only media representatives from government-affiliated media organisations Xinhua, China Daily, China Central Television and Beijing Television were allowed to ask questions, and were also warned not to pose any sensitive questions related to the death toll. The report in Chang Jiang Daily was removed from the paper’s website. Many Chinese netizens also complained that their online comments criticising the Beijing Government’s poor management of the disaster were deleted from the internet. “The media should not be forbidden from raising questions of great public concern, such as this, which serve to protect public safety.” IFJ Asia-Pacific said.
4) Retaliatory Suspension of Media in China
The IFJ condemned the suspension of the Economic Observer, a Shandong-based weekly newspaper with an office in Beijing and Shanghai, by the local Beijing Government in alleged act of retaliation for their investigations into the underreporting of the death toll from the storm that hit in China’s capital on July 21 by the government’s Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters. According to a Radio France Internationale report, The Economic Observer was ordered to “suspend” its work on August 6 by the local Beijing Government’s Cultural Bureau. The reason given was that the paper was not a locally registered media organisation, and as such was publishing illegally. Chinese authorities confiscated all copies of the paper from vendors on August 4. “It is widely believed that the suspension of The Economic Observer is political retaliation from the local Beijing Government”, one mainland journalist told the IFJ. “The situation in the office is very tense. The punishment is clearly because the newspaper disclosed that the local Government had attempted to understate the death toll following the severe storm that hit Beijing on July 21. This has raised questions of the local government’s management abilities. Journalists have been ordered not to speak with anyone. ” The Economic Observer has been circulated throughout Beijing for a number of years and has a reputation for in-depth investigative reports which drew great recognition and acclaim from the public and media industry. “It is very disappointing to see China’s government use selective punishment to apply pressure to the media”, IFJ Asia-Pacific said. “The IFJ urges Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to investigate the latest attacks on the media, and calls for China’s Cultural Bureau to unconditionally lift the suspensions recently applied to publications as part of the ‘fighting illegal publications’ campaign.”
5) Chinese Authorities Ban Reporting of Train Crash Anniversary and Other Incidents
The IFJ was deeply frustrated by reports that China’s Central Propaganda Department blocked all media reporting of the anniversary of 2011’s deadly high-speed train crash in Wenzhou, in China’s eastern Zhejiang Province. On July 16 onwards, journalists received calls from their seniors asking them to halt their reporting and leave Wenzhou. No explanation was given. On the evening of July 23, 2011, two high-speed bulletin trains collided in Wenzhou, killing 40 people and injuring at least 192 others. During the rescue, government officials quickly ordered the burial of the train the wreckage, drawing criticism from the public for their attempts to cover-up the incident.
In addition to this, reporting was either barred or limited to republishing of government sanctioned articles on the dispute over the ownership of Diaoyu Islands (also known as Senkaku Islands); the ownership of South China Sea. Reporting was also barred on the resignation of Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin, who used to be a member of the Standing Committee of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and the deputy Director of Shanghai Catholic Patriotic Association, who publicly announced his resignation from the Catholic Patriotic Association on July 7.
6) Threat to Media Diversity in Taiwan
The IFJ expressed its deep concern regarding the decision of the Republic of China (Taiwan’s) National Communications Commission (NCC) to approve the expansion of the services of media giant Want Want China Times Group, in Taipei on July 25, 2012. Want Want China Broadband, a subsidiary of the Want Want China Times Group, already owns several newspapers, magazines, and both terrestrial and satellite television stations in Taiwan. It is reported that the new expansion would see the company purchase an additional 10 cable television companies for TWD 76 billion (approximately USD 2.6 billion), allowing the company to secure 27 per cent of Taiwan’s market of cable subscribers. The purchase would enable the company to control one-third of Taiwan’s media market. On July 25, the NCC approved the application of the media giant with three conditions. The conditions, as explained by NCC Chairperson Su Herng, included that Want Want China Times Group’s Chairperson Tsai Eng-meng and his family must not be involved in the management of CTiTV’s news channel and that China Television’s news channel must amend its operational plan to become a non-news channel.
Taiwan Journalists Association (TJA), an IFJ affiliate, several civil organizations and journalism scholars have criticised the NCC’s decision and encouraged public boycotts of food products produced by Want Want Group. On May 7, the NCC held a hearing to consider the Want Want China Times Group’s proposed expansion. During the hearing, the Group’s Chairperson Tsai Eng-meng indirectly admitted that the Group had made editorial compromises. According to several local media reports, Tsai’s media companies have already accepted advertising revenue from the Mainland without notifying its readers.
7) Free Flow of Information Stalls in Hong Kong
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) expressed deep disappointment over reports that Hong Kong’s newly appointed Secretary of Education failed to publically disclose his official visit to China, in a shift in policy from the Hong Kong Government’s traditional practice of transparency. According to various reports in the Hong Kong media, Secretary of Education Eddie Ng Hak-Kim made a secret trip to visit the Ministry of Education in Beijing on Monday 16 July. Neither Hong Kong’s Ministry of Education nor the Department of Information publically disclosed any information about the trip until after a press release had been released by China’s Ministry of Education, at the visit’s conclusion on Tuesday July 17. Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), an IFJ affiliate, condemned the practice of non-disclosure of official visits by Hong Kong government representatives as a denial of the public’s right to information.
In another incident of hindrance to the free flow of information, on August 6, Paul Chan of the Secretary of Development was suspected by the media and HKJA of attempts to evade media follow up of his scandal of property investment activities by issuing his latest statement mid-night on August 5.
8) China Escalates Crack Down on all Media
China escalated its censorship of internet content in July, under the guise of the launch of a renewed crack down on pornographic material and illegal publications in the country. According to a Xinhua report on July 9, the new crack- down that began in July will go through to the end of November. The target is not only internet content but also extends to videos, books and magazines. Because of this new wave of crack down many micro-blog account holders complained that they were unable to access to their accounts or that messages were deleted. According to a Global Times report, one of the micro-blog account holders was the information officer of United States Consulate General in Shanghai. Furthermore, according to New Beijing Newspaper report on July 29, 5 publications were halted by the Cultural Bureau in China with the reason being given that they were illegal publications. According to Legal Daily, the publications did not get any approval licenses from their local authorities. However, the report did not explain why they did not apply or reasons that the applications were refused if they had applied. On the other hand, a Shangdong based newspaper, Blue Express Daily, was attacked by a group of people who claimed themselves to be of officers from the Cultural Bureau of Yantai, Shangdong. According to a New Beijing Newspaper report, the unknown people took away the computer of the newspaper on the night of July 21 and bit two of the staff members as they were trying to protect the property of the newspaper being removed. The report said the unknown people accused the newspaper of being illegally published, but the spokesperson of the newspaper rebutted that they have a license from the General Administration of Press and Publication.
9) Authorities Demand all Mainland internet service providers censor videos before airing
While video sharing becomes a very popular activity for the netizen, the authorities of China issued a notice to all the internet service providers that they have to censor all the content of the videos before allowing people to upload the video to the websites. The spokesperson of the State Administration of Radio Film and Television said some of the videos are vulgar and violent, therefore they need to direct the content of the videos. At the same time, the State Administration of Radio Film and Television also demanded that all television broadcasters are bound by 6 rules when they broadcast some of the programmes. The rules include that online games cannot be adapted into television dramas, or to promote conflict within the family etc. Many commentators said the rules clearly restrain the freedom of creativity, and it is unclear what lies behind these rules.
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