Beijing, March 10: MEDIA and rights groups have called on China to end harassment of the press, after more than a dozen foreign reporters were detained or stopped while trying to cover events surrounding tense Tibet.
"These detentions must stop," said Jonathan Watts, head of the Foreign Correspondents Club of China. "By locking up and blocking reporters, the security forces raise suspicions about their actions.
"The Government should live up to its promise of openness in all of China, including the Tibet Autonomous Region and Tibetan areas."
Chinese authorities have been bracing themselves for potential unrest around yesterday's 50th anniversary of the a failed uprising against Chinese rule, which forced the region's leader, the Dalai Lama, to flee into exile.
They have largely sealed off Tibet and the neighbouring areas of western China in recent weeks, while deploying a huge military presence across the remote Himalayan plateau.
Watts said reporting teams from at least six overseas news organisations had been detained, turned back or had materials confiscated after reporting in the Tibetan areas of Gansu, Sichuan and Qinghai provinces in the past week.
According to Chinese rules, foreign journalists are not allowed to report in the Tibet Autonomous Region but they are technically free to cover Tibetan regions in other areas bordering on Tibet.
But even those regions have largely been off limits to foreign journalists since March last year, when unrest on the 49th anniversary of the 1959 uprising erupted into anti-Chinese riots in Tibetan communities in many parts of China.
"Reporters without Borders is outraged by the systematic violation of press freedom and free expression in Tibet," the Paris-based group said in a statement.