China's Tibet Autonomous Region is out of bounds for foreign journalists. This causes media persons to resort to clandestine methods to get into the region, says a global press freedom organisation.
Foreign journalists, banned from entering Tibet, have been prevented by the police from covering demonstrations by Tibetans in other Chinese provinces, Reporters Without Borders (RWB), a non-profit organisation, said in its report released last week.
"In the last week of January in Sichuan province, a crew from CNN was arrested at a toll barrier and prevented from travelling to neighbouring Tibet."
It said such "restrictions are unlawful, the authorities regularly cite bad weather or the poor state of roads to restrict access to the autonomous region".
Consequently, journalists are forced to resort to clandestine methods to get into Tibet or provinces with Tibetan populations. It said foreign journalists suspected of wishing to defy police instructions themselves become victims of harassment by the security forces.
"Not only are foreign media organisations prevented from covering these events, but the authorities have also organised a veritable disinformation campaign, using pro-government media such as the Global Times, which play down the disturbances and accuse the international community of interfering," said the RWB.
"Out of sight of the world, a major crisis is unfolding. Even Pyongyang has an international media presence, which is not the case in Lhasa."
The RWB added: "As in the past, the Chinese authorities aim to control the Tibetan people behind closed doors, excluding journalists, foreign ones in particular, who might be troublesome witnesses of what is happening.
"They are also trying to restrict all communication between the region and the rest of the world. The Internet is a secondary victim of the crackdown. Connections are cut off, access is blocked and content linked to the unrest is removed."
Chinese authorities have stepped up major crackdowns against suspected dissidents in Tibet in recent months, with young men taken away from homes and families being separated. Tibetans, who had travelled out of China on valid documents, have been detained on suspicion on return and over a score have immolated themselves in protest, say Tibetans living here.
In the past year, 23 monks, nuns and other Tibetans set themselves on fire to protest Chinese rule, according to the Tibetan government-in-exile, a democratically elected body of the exiles that is based here.