Relaxation of Rules Governing Journalists’ News Coverage

The Hong Kong Journalists Association welcomes China’s decision to amend “The Regulations Concerning Foreign Journalists and Permanent Offices of Foreign News Agencies”, allowing foreign journalists to travel to mainland “non-restricted areas” to cover news. We hope the Chinese authorities will not abuse the definition of “non-restricted areas” to restrict journalists’ reporting. Otherwise, it will not be conducive to the international community’s understanding of China.

        The Chinese Government introduced temporary Olympic reporting regulations to allow greater freedom for journalists to interview subjects and to carry out their work from 1st July 2007 to 17th October 2008. The Hong Kong Journalists Association has evaluated the results and concluded that there were still many obstacles in the way of press freedom during the period. Foreign journalists were regularly obstructed by local officials who were unaware of the regulations or unwilling to allow such a free media environment in their territory. Also, the local journalists in Mainland China could not share in the benefits from the special regulations. In fact, HKJA noted the regulations allowed some improvements for foreign journalists, as well as those from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, to interview subjects and to carry out their work in China, under certain limitations.

        The Hong Kong Journalists Association urges the Chinese Government to widen press freedom in China in the following by:

  1. Extending the above-mentioned Regulations to HK, Macau and Taiwan journalists indefinitely;
  2. Extending these regulations to the local journalists on the Mainland;
  3. Disseminating and educating local officials on the regulations, to ensure full implementation of these regulations;
  4. Put an end to oppression of media assistants and citizens who assisting the journalists in their reporting

        During the early stages when Special Reporting Regulations were in force, journalists could interview some “sensitive” subjects like Wu Jia, and could even conduct interviews in Tibet. Later, however, breaches of press freedom and of the special regulations were widespread and rapidly became more serious with breaches including surveillance, arrests and physical attacks, denial of access and harassment of sources. We urge the Chinese Government to extend the special reporting regulations to improve press freedom in China.

        The Chinese authorities are also good at using “maintaining public order” as an excuse to discouraging press coverage, for instance, unnecessarily setting up press areas is a common practice. The open sale of Olympics tickets on 25th July and the setting up of a press area in the case of demonstrations staged by Smart Union Group workers on 17th October are also recent examples. As a result, journalists were separated from the masses, thus affecting journalists’ interviews of people concerned. The former case to some extent resulted in clashes between journalists and policemen.

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