China warns foreign media not to cover protests

Chinese police are further intensifying pressure on foreign reporters, warning them to stay away from spots designated for Middle East-inspired protests and threatening them with expulsion or a revoking of their credentials.

Last Updated: Mar 03, 2011, 22:42 PM IST

Beijing: Chinese police are further
intensifying pressure on foreign reporters, warning them to
stay away from spots designated for Middle East-inspired
protests and threatening them with expulsion or a revoking of
their credentials.

The warnings show how unnerved the authorities are by the
online calls for protests every Sunday. The appeals, which
started two weeks ago, have attracted few outright
demonstrators but many onlookers, loads of journalists and
swarms of police.

Staff from a news agency, Agence France-Presse and
numerous other overseas news organizations were called in for
videotaped meetings with Beijing police yesterday and today
and told that reporters trying to film or interview near the
proposed demonstration spots in Beijing or Shanghai this
weekend would be punished.

The Foreign Correspondents` Club of China said in a
statement that some journalists reported being accused by
police "of trying to help stir up a revolution, disrupt
harmony in China and simply cause trouble."

The warnings ratchet up notices from police earlier this
week that put a section of the Wangfujing shopping street in
downtown Beijing and an area near People`s Square in Shanghai
off limits for foreign media.

However, a British broadcast journalist, who declined to
be named in line with company policy, said her team was told
that it was not allowed to film anywhere in China, including
basic street scenes, without prior approval.

The extreme reaction signals a retreat since restrictions
on foreign media were eased in the run-up to the 2008
Olympics. In 2006, then Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu
Jianchao announced that local officials could not intervene in
the work of foreign reporters doing interviews, though some
sensitive areas, such as Tibet, remained off limits to
reporters without special permits.

Foreign reporters have always been afforded greater
latitude than domestic ones.

In a tense news conference today, Foreign Ministry
spokeswoman Jiang Yu repeatedly said there was no change in
the reporting regulations. Jiang said the rules were clear and
that reporters were no longer journalists if they broke the
law and created news.

PTI