Three Gorges Probe

Roughing up journalists in China

(May 11, 2009) As the media coverage of the one-year anniversary of last year’s Sichuan earthquake heats up, reports of attacks on international journalists trying to cover the issue are on the rise. The attacks also come on the heels of the government’s official announcement that 5,335 students died as a result of collapsing schools during last year’s earthquake — the first time it’s released such data.

Jamil Anderlini, a reporter from the Financial Times claims he was physically attacked (with compelling video footage) and his camera broken by government officials as he tried to interview parents of children who were killed in the earthquake. A number of journalists from other media outlets have reported similar attacks.

The Chinese government says that 5,335 students died in last year’s Sichuan earthquake. But some critics contend that the number might be as high as 10,000. The government released official death tolls weeks after the earthquake, but until last week, refused to provide numbers detailing how many students were killed.

The death toll of students has been a sensitive topic for political leaders, as critics allege that shoddy school construction and ignored building codes may have contributed to the death of thousands of school children.

According to the Foreign Correspondents Club of China, more than 335 cases of reporting interference in China have occurred since January 1, 2007. This includes more than 12 after the quake. The club’s Web site defines interference as “violence, destruction of journalistic materials, detention, harassment of sources and staff, interception of communications, denial of access to public areas, being questioned in an intimidating manner by authorities, being reprimanded officially, being followed, and being subjected to other obstacles not in keeping with international practices.”

Brady Yauch, May 11, 2009

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Categories: Three Gorges Probe

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