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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

China: Media Summit Participants Should Push For Press Freedom

October 10, 2009

Human Rights Watch news release
Address State Censorship, Restrictions on Foreign Journalists

(New York, October 7, 2009) - Participants at the World Media Summit, to be
held in Beijing on October 8-10, should use the opportunity to urge the
Chinese government to respect press freedom and stop its routine harassment,
detention, and intimidation of journalists, Human Rights Watch said today.

The Summit - organized by China's state-run Xinhua News Agency, whose
director Li Changjun is the former vice-director of the Propaganda
Department - expects representatives of 130 foreign media organizations to
discuss future media trends and opportunities in bilateral and multilateral
media cooperation. The participants will include News Corporation Chairman &
CEO Rupert Murdoch, AP President & CEO Thomas Curley, Reuters News
Editor-in-Chief David Schlesinger and BBC Director-General Mark Thompson.

"The Summit's participants need to know that this event is being convened by
a government that regularly denies basic press freedoms," said Sophie
Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. "Without a candid
discussion about the difference between genuine media and propaganda, the
need to stop harassing and abusing Chinese and foreign journalists, and the
importance of reliable, real-time information from inside China, the summit
runs the risk of eroding rather than defending media freedoms."

Human Rights Watch said that China's domestic media has for decades been
subject to strict government controls which ensure that reporting falls
within the boundaries of the official propaganda line. For example, in May
2009, the Guangdong provincial government demanded - in the name of
"harmony," "stability," and "national interests above all" - that state
media outlets reduce "negative" coverage of issues ranging from government
officials to public protests.

Foreign journalists have been effectively barred from entering Tibet since
the March 2008 protests there except on highly circumscribed visits. Chinese
reporters have been blocked from writing about issues of global importance,
such as the tainted milk powder exported from China in 2008, which
eventually sickened tens of thousands of children and killed six. The
Chinese news assistants of foreign correspondents are forbidden to engage in
any "independent reporting."

Although Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution guarantees freedom of the
press and the Chinese government's April 2009 National Human Rights Action
Plan reiterates that commitment, both Chinese journalists and foreign
correspondents are regularly harassed, detained, and intimidated by
government officials, security forces, and their agents. In the past month
alone a group of unidentified individuals attacked, hit, and pushed to the
ground three reporters from Japan's Kyodo News Agency who were covering a
rehearsal in Beijing for the October 1 National Day parade. On August 31,
2009, two private security guards employed by the Dongguan municipal
government in southern Guangdong province to maintain order at a crime scene
attacked Guangzhou Daily reporter Liu Manyuan when he attempted to take
photos at the scene. The guards shoved Liu to the ground and beat him for
around ten minutes, leaving bruises on his neck and arms and prompting his
temporary hospitalization.

These issues and developments do not appear on the Summit's official
program."Silence at the World Media Summit about the Chinese government's
restrictions on press freedom would betray the courageous Chinese
journalists who strive day after day to defy state censorship," said
Richardson.

Foreign corporations have a mixed record of pressing for greater freedom of
expression in China. In 2005, the US internet company Yahoo established a
dangerous precedent when it disclosed information to Chinese police which
proved instrumental in the conviction and 10-year prison term of journalist
Shi Tao on charges of violating China's state secrets law. Similarly,
companies such as Microsoft and Google have censored information on search
engines and blogs in China. These companies have since begun to develop and
implement standards to protect free expression and privacy with academics,
investors, and civil society, including Human Rights Watch. However, these
efforts are new and have yet to demonstrate impact in countries like China.

In June 2009, however, foreign technology companies, in alliance with
international business associations and elements of the US government, set a
positive example in their response to the Chinese government's demand that
those firms install Internet filtering software on all personal computers
sold in China. Although the Chinese government described that software,
called Green Dam Youth Escort, as a pornography filtering tool, analysis by
independent experts indicated it posed a much more sinister threat to
privacy, choice, and security. The foreign companies' opposition to the plan
helped prompt the Chinese government to suspend the mandatory installation
of the filtering software on June 30, 2009.

"There is no doubt that press freedom needs more allies in China," said
Richardson. "The question is whether some of the world's biggest media
companies will fulfill that role."
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