China - Call for release of 33 imprisoned journalists as China marks "journalists' day" - Propaganda department order to media highlights extent of censorship

    MONTREAL, Nov. 7 /CNW Telbec/ - On the eve of "Journalists' Day," which
China is celebrating tomorrow, Reporters Without Borders calls on the
authorities to stop violating journalists' rights on a massive scale. The
record leaves no room for doubt - 33 journalists are currently detained,
several dozen have been injured this year and one has been killed.
    To illustrate the scope of the government's editorial control, the press
freedom organisation is publishing a message which the Publicity Department
sent to the leading Chinese media before last month's congress of the
Communist Party of China. Obtained from a Beijing news organisation, this
message clearly shows how the Publicity Department (formerly called, less
discreetly, the Propaganda Department) forces journalists to censor many news
items and to censor themselves.
    The message is a clear call to order. It explains that when a note
entitled "Reporting ban" is issued, the media are strictly forbidden to
publish any report on the subject. Similarly, when a note is sent to news
media saying, "Do not send reporter," it means they are forbidden to cover the
story themselves and must limit themselves to using the dispatches of the
government news agency Xinhua.

    Glossary used for propaganda requirements

    So that the Publicity Department's directives are applied better, that
news staff respect the rules of discipline established for news reports, and
that news reports are shared as much as possible, here is the specific
glossary. We hope it will enable news organisations to increase their
understanding of directives and put them into practice.

    1  - "Reporting ban" means ban on writing a report on the subject.
    2  - "Do not send reporter" means permission to publish the Xinhua news
         agency's standard article or to reproduce the report or column
         published by a local news media.
    3  - "Ban on criticising" means no comment on the subject, including
         comment by means of a cartoon.
    4  - "No exaggeration" means objective report, no editorializing or front
         page photo.
    5  - "Absolutely no exaggeration" means the same.
    6  - "No opportunism" means no front-page analysis, a story of less than
         a full page, and a ban on doing a series of reports.
    7  - "Absolutely no opportunism" means no front-page analysis, a story of
         less than a full page, no big headlines and no series of reports.
    8  - "No reporting without permission" means possibility of publishing
         the Xinhua news agency standard article or sending a request to the
         Publicity Department with the proposed article's angle and word
    9  - "No reporting for the time being" means no reporting.
    10 - "No participation" means no reporting.

    In the light of the massive censorship imposed by the Publicity
Department in the run-up to the party congress, Reporters Without Borders is
supporting the "Declaration against the Propaganda Department" that university
academic Jiao Guobiao wrote in 2004. Jiao said in his essay that "censorship
by the Community Party of China is blocking the civilised development of
Chinese society" and that the Propaganda Department is "the bastion of the
most reactionary forces and allows them to abuse their authority."
    Three days ahead of Journalists' Day this year, the General
Administration of Press and Publications (GAPP) issued a report recognising
that Chinese journalists face many problems in the course of their work. It
said some journalists were subject to pressure from within the private sector
to suppress certain stories. Others were the victims of physical violence.
    But no mention was made of cases such as that of Pang Jiaoming of China
Economic Times, who was punished by the authorities in July for writing a
story about the poor quality of the material used to build the rails for the
first high-speed train link between Wuhan and Guangzhou.
    The GAPP report also criticised journalists who take money to write
publicity pieces for companies, and those who use their position to blackmail
people. It also referred to the problem of undeclared journalists and defended
the obligatory press card, but it took no serious account of the situation of
freelance journalists. This is because there is a single journalists union,
which is affiliated to the Communist Party.
    Reporters Without Borders would also like to mention the case of Lan
Chengzhang, a journalist who was beaten to death on 10 January by thugs in the
pay of an illegal mine owner in the northern province of Shanxi. Lan worked
for China Trade News but as he was working on a trial basis, the authorities
refused to regard him as a journalist. He did not yet have a press card and
was not authorised to go out and do his own stories.
    For this reason, Chinese officials and the media accused him of being a
"false journalist" who was trying to blackmail people - a charge often used to
discredit investigative journalists who dig up embarrassing facts. His
murderers did, however, get prison sentences.
    The GAPP report also said that "reports must be true, accurate, objective
and fair, and must not oppose the interests of the state or infringe on
citizens' rights." But at no moment did the GAPP mention the problems of
censorship which the Chinese media face.

For further information:

For further information: Emily Jacquard, secretary general, Reporters
Without Borders Canada, (514) 521-4111, Cell: (514) 258-4208, Fax: (514)

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