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China 10 March 2009

Foreign press prevented from working in Tibetan regions

Reporters Without Borders is outraged by the way the Chinese authorities are breaking the rules for foreign journalists by arresting those visiting Tibetan regions in the west of the country. Although the regulations inherited from the Olympic Games guarantee their freedom of movement, at least 14 foreign reporters have been arrested and in many cases expelled from Tibetan regions in recent weeks.

With the world’s eyes turned towards Tibet because of today’s 50th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising, the Chinese security forces have gone to extraordinary lengths to prevent any foreigners, especially journalists, from witnessing the situation there.

Apparently there are no foreign journalists in Tibet at the moment, while journalists have been prevented from working in the three nearby provinces of Gansu, Sichuan and Qinghai. Beniamino Natale of the Italian news agency ANSA was briefly arrested in Qinghai province after visiting a monastery.

Police escorted three Agence France-Presse journalists away from La Jia monastery in Qinghai province today. “This is not a public place, you cannot be here,” a police officer told them.

A crew from the Flemish television station VRT was prohibited to enter the birthplace of the dalai lama, Taktser in Qinhai province. Ten policemen in plain clothes took their passports and confiscated their driver’s licence. The police was heavily armed. After half an hour journalists were escorted back on the road to Xining.

A crew from the Spanish television station TVE was arrested in Sichuan province and the footage they had filmed was erased. A woman journalist with the Finnish TV station FBC was followed and detained several times in Qinghai, while her driver was threatened by the police.

The Associated Press has meanwhile said its reporters were detained and questioned twice in the past few weeks in Tibetan regions. A France 24 TV crew was briefly detained today by police while in the Tibetan quarter of the Sichuan capital Chengdu. Police told reporter Sébastien Le Belzic that he needed to obtain permission from the local office of the foreign affairs ministry before filming, as was the case before the Olympic Games.

All foreigners are being prevented from entering Chengdu’s Tibetan quarter.

The Foreign Correspondents Club of China (FCCC) said: “These detentions must stop (...) By locking up and blocking reporters, the security forces raise suspicions about their actions.”

An FCCC representative told Reporters Without Borders: “Tibetans who speak to foreign correspondents or assist them, for example as a driver, risk being detained and interrogated by authorities. Under these conditions it is extremely difficult to get accurate information, much less an informed overview of what is happening in Tibetan communities on the 50th anniversary of the failed uprising.”

In this country
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2 June - China
All references to Tiananmen Square massacre closely censored for 20 years
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25 March - China
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in the annual report
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