Fri, Mar 04, 2011 - Page 5 News List

Western media ‘fabricate’ news: China’s ‘Global Times’

WARNINGS:Police have called in foreign journalists for videotaped meetings and told them anyone trying to film or interview near demonstration spots would be punished


An official Chinese newspaper yesterday accused foreign journalists in the country of fabricating news in the latest sign of official nerves over an online campaign for anti-government rallies.

“It is not unusual for Beijing-based Western journalists to receive demands from bosses in their home countries to make up stories,” said an opinion piece in the Global Times, which is linked to the Chinese Communist Party.

Western reporters “must never take delight in blind, idle chatter and instead should remember your true status and the laws of the nation where you are living,” it said.

The commentary appeared to underline rising official anxiety over an online call for rallies in cities across China each Sunday.

Although no protests have yet been seen, police have thrown tight security at the sites in the past two weeks and last Sunday several foreign journalists were roughed up.

The commentary blamed the presence of Western journalists for attracting crowds of curious onlookers and setting police on edge.

“Making up stories and fabricating news ... does not conform with journalist ethics nor does it really uphold justice,” the paper said.

Staff from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and numerous other overseas news organizations were called in for videotaped meetings with Beijing police on Wednesday and yesterday and told that reporters trying to film or interview near the proposed demonstration spots in Beijing or Shanghai this weekend would be punished. The AP was told reporters might lose their journalist cards, which grant them the right to report in China.

The warnings ratchet up notices from police earlier this week that put a section of the Wangfujing shopping street in downtown Beijing and an area near People’s Square in Shanghai off-limits for foreign media.

However, a British broadcast journalist, who declined to be named in line with company policy, said her team was told that it was not allowed to film anywhere in China, including basic street scenes, without prior approval.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China said in a statement that some journalists reported being accused by police “of trying to help stir up a revolution, disrupt harmony in China and simply cause trouble.”

The club also said in a notice to its members yesterday that no journalists who have so far applied to cover demonstration sites in Beijing have been granted permission.

The notice also warned journalists to exercise extreme caution if trying to report on the rallies on Sunday and to avoid letting police separate them from colleagues or corner them out of sight of other people.

The extreme reaction signals a rolling back of press freedoms for foreign media in China that were liberalized in the run-up to the 2008 Olympics. In 2006, then Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Liu Jianchao (劉建超) said local officials could not intervene in the work of foreign reporters doing interviews.

“When you interview a person, you only need the consent of the interviewee,” he said, though some sensitive areas, such as Tibet, remained off-limits to reporters without special permits.

In a tense news conference yesterday, ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu (姜瑜) repeatedly said there was no change in the reporting regulations. Jiang said the rules were clear and that reporters were no longer journalists if they broke the law and created news.

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