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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

China seen as reneging on media-freedom vow

July 8, 2008

Foreign journalists, local sources suffering intimidation ranging
from surveillance to beatings and death threats, rights group reports
The Globe and Mail (Canada)
July 7, 2008

BEIJING -- When 25,000 foreign journalists descend on Beijing next
month to cover the Olympics, they will face restrictions that are far
from the "complete freedom" China promised in its bid for the Games.

Foreign journalists and their sources in China are enduring a system
of intimidation, obstruction, surveillance and even beatings and
death threats, a new report says.

The 71-page report by Human Rights Watch, to be released today, says
Chinese authorities have expanded the "forbidden zones" - sensitive
regions and subjects that are off-limits to foreign journalists -
even as it prepares for the Olympics.

In 2001, as it was bidding for the right to hold the Olympics, China
promised the international media would enjoy "complete freedom to
report when they come to China" for the Olympics.

Five years later, the Chinese government announced that foreign
journalists could freely conduct interviews with any consenting
Chinese citizen on any "political, economic, social and cultural
matters" from Jan. 1, 2007 to Oct. 17, 2008.

Both of those promises have been repeatedly violated, and media
freedom has deteriorated in China since mid-2007, according to the
report by Human Rights Watch, an independent human-rights
organization based in New York.

It documented how several foreign journalists have suffered beatings
or detention in the past 10 months, while others have been threatened
with the loss of their Olympic accreditation because the government
disliked their reports. One reporter was kicked and punched by
suspected plainclothes security agents who detained him for two hours
when he visited an illegal jail in Beijing where petitioners were detained.

At least 10 foreign correspondents - and some of their family members
- were subjected to anonymous death threats from Chinese individuals
in phone calls, e-mails and text messages in March and April during
the Tibetan unrest. But despite many complaints from the Foreign
Correspondents Club of China, government officials refused to
investigate the death threats, the report says.

It also says the death threats led to the temporary closing of a
foreign television news bureau in Beijing and the temporary
relocation of the bureau chiefs of two Beijing-based foreign media outlets.

The media freedom promise, which came into effect in January of 2007,
did not mention any exceptions or limits. But this was quickly
superseded by a new announcement that Tibet would still be tightly
restricted. Foreign journalists who managed to enter Tibet were
obstructed, intimidated or followed.

This spring, after the Tibetan protests, the "forbidden zones" were
expanded to include several new geographic regions - the ethnically
Tibetan districts of Sichuan, Gansu, Yunnan and Qinghai provinces.
Foreign journalists were kicked out of these regions, or blocked from entering.

After the Sichuan earthquake on May 12, foreign journalists were
allowed free access to the quake zone for several weeks. But since
June 2, the Foreign Correspondents Club has documented at least nine
incidents in which foreign journalists were detained or roughed up by
authorities in the earthquake zone.

Another tactic is the detention or intimidation of Chinese sources
who speak to foreign journalists. One Chinese person who spoke to a
foreign television crew in March was beaten by police so severely
that he needed hospital treatment, the report says.

The attacks on Chinese sources have increased during the past year,
the report said. "The intensified pressure on sources appears to be
an intentional tactic by government officials and security forces to
maintain a veneer of freedom for foreign journalists while seriously
undermining their capacity to report effectively."

Although foreign journalists are often obstructed or pressured, the
controls on the Chinese media are much stricter. The government sends
weekly faxes to Chinese media outlets, announcing the latest
restrictions on their coverage, the report says. And at China's state
television network, the computer terminals of all journalists are
linked to an electronic system that tells them the latest decrees on
issues that they are prohibited from covering.
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