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Reporters in China still face problems
AP[Tuesday, January 01, 2008 13:32]

Foreign journalists working in China face continued harassment despite new reporting rules brought in for the Olympic Games, a report by the Beijing-based Foreign Correspondents Club of China say.

China relaxed restrictions on foreign journalists at the beginning of the year, exempting them from having to apply for permission to travel and conduct interviews.

The change was part of the country's pledge to increase media freedom - a promise that helped Beijing win the honour of hosting the 2008 Olympics.

But the FCCC said it received more than 180 reports of interference in journalists' work in 2007, including beatings and intimidation by local plain clothes thugs in Beijing and other places such as central Hubei province.

Sensitive areas such as China's western Xinjiang province, home to China's Uygur minority, and Tibet, still remain difficult places to work in due to official obstruction and harassment, the FCCC said.

Before the rule change, reporters had to apply for permission to travel outside of the major cities, as well as to conduct interviews.

"While the year-old regulations have improved overall reporting conditions for foreign journalists, we are particularly troubled by repeated violations in several areas," FCCC president Melinda Liu said in the statement.

In one case, two reporters investigating an illicit detention centre in a Beijing suburb were physically assaulted by thugs. Over a dozen thugs surrounded one reporter, tackling him to the ground and kicking him in the back. The centre was used to illegally imprison petitioners coming to the capital to voice their grievances to the central government.

Journalists working in Tibet and Xinjiang were followed or detained, or their sources were intimidated, the FCCC said.

The government decree announcing the relaxed reporting rules says they will expire on October 17 after the Summer Olympics and the Paralympics that follow.

The government's grip on the domestic media remains tight, dictating what can be reported and limiting any open discussion about democracy, religious freedom or material considered politically subversive.
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