By Phurbu Thinley
Dharamsala, October 29: The World Association of Newspapers (WAN) and World Editors Forum (WEF) while welcoming China’s decision to extend new freedoms granted during the Olympics have called on the Chinese government to “take further steps to uphold international standards of press freedom”.
In the run-up to the Beijing Olympics, Chinese government introduced new rules that allowed foreign journalists greater freedom to travel in the country without prior government permission and to talk to anyone who was willing to be interviewed.
Those regulations were set to expire on 17 October; however, shortly before they expired new regulations were introduced that recognise these rights.
But in a joint letter
to the Chinese premier Wen Jiabao, WAN president Gavin O’Reilly and WEF president Xavier Vidal-Folch have pointed out that the relaxed rules do not include domestic journalists and do not address fundamental rights necessary for the proper functioning of a free press.
The letter, dated October 21, 2008, says: “For example, there is no protection of news sources, it is not possible to report freely on Tibet and hotels are obliged to report the arrival of a foreign journalist to police.
“Furthermore, with more than 30 journalists and at least 50 cyber reporters imprisoned, China jails more journalists than any other country.
“We respectfully call on you to extend the relaxed regulations to domestic journalists, to introduce further reforms so that your country might fully respect international standards of press freedom, and to ensure that all those detained for exercising their right to freedom of expression are immediately released from prison.”
The Paris-based WAN, the global organisation of the world’s press, is encouraging newspapers and other media world-wide to join the campaign for more press freedom in China by publishing new advertisements that highlight Chinese repression and call on authorities to allow more freedom of expression.
China is known as the world's biggest jailer of journalists. The general view is that real figure of journalists and cyber reporters imprisoned in China is actually much higher, but since families and friends of imprisoned journalists are threatened into silence, information on other cases remains unavailable.
WAN, with formal representative status at the United Nations, UNESCO and the Council of Europe, defends and promotes press freedom and the professional and business interests of newspapers world-wide. It represents 18,000 publications in 102 countries, 12 news agencies and 11 regional and world-wide press groups.
WEF is the organization for editors within the WAN.