The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns instructions to media issued by China’s Prison Bureau and Central Propaganda Department that they must only report information distributed through official channels.
The order, dated April 10, prevents journalists from reporting on the welfare, death or injury of prison inmates unless the information is sourced from the Prison Bureau. The Central Propaganda Department reportedly said such information could be manipulated and used against prison authorities.
The addition of this topic to China’s list of banned topics occurs shortly after the publication of news reports about the suspicious circumstances of the death of Liu Yushan, 35, an inmate at Gaoming District Prison, who was discovered dead at the prison.
After reportedly finding bruises on his son’s body and injuries to his feet, Liu’s father has challenged official reports that he died of a heart attack.Meanwhile, interference by provincial officials continues to disrupt journalists’ work on other issues.
The IFJ learned that the editor of the government-owned website Tianshannet.com.cn, Wang Dahao was forced to resign after writing an article criticising an instruction by the Education Bureau of Urumchi, Xinjiang Province that all students memorise the name of the local official leader.
Media follow-up reportedly angered Wang’s supervisor. At an April 7 meeting, local officials threatened that Wang would be investigated by the security bureau by if he remained at his post, Wang reported on his blog.
“Freedom of information enters dangerous territory when journalists are forced to rely solely on official sources about incidents involving government-run institutions,” IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.
“Governments should operate on the basis of transparency and accountability. Imposing restrictions on journalists who are, by profession, guardians of the public interest demonstrates how far China has to travel to achieve openness.”
The IFJ reiterates its call for China’s national authorities to ensure that all levels of government adhere to the principles of freedom of expression, which are essential to China becoming an open and free society.