Days after three reporters from international news organisations were assaulted, the Beijing-based foreign correspondents’ club in China (FCCC) has warned its members to be careful and alert while on their jobs.
The journalists from French and Danish news organisations were reporting from a village called Panhe in the eastern province of Zhejiang where residents had protested against local officials recently.
Unidentified groups of people attacked the journalists in two separate cases; in one case notebooks, documents handed over to the reporters by villagers and the memory card of a camera were snatched away. Villagers talking to the journalist were beaten up. He was then taken away by members of the local foreign affairs office but continued to be harassed on phone.
In the second case involving a French television journalist, both he and his Chinese assistant were accosted by unidentified men after their vehicle was forced to stop. The latter was then assaulted by the men. This was after another vehicle, allegedly deliberately, crashed into their car forcing them to stop. Compensation was later paid to the journalist for the broken camera; medical expenses were also paid.
Local police officers later said the young men were from Panhe, adding that they were supporters of the government and were upset that foreign reporters were in their village to cover recent events.
Subsequently, the FCCC – which is incidentally not recognised by the Chinese government -- issued an advisory urging journalists reporting from the area to be “especially alert.”
Members of the foreign press – according to AFP, a record number of 900 foreign journalists attached to 400 media organisations are based in China – frequently complaint of lack of access, harassment and censorship. Officially, journalists only require permission to visit the Tibetan Autonomous Region. But reporters were recently turned back from the adjoining Sichuan province where incidents of self-immolations by pro-freedom Tibetan activists were reported.