The Foreign Correspondents Club of China has troubling news today of three attacks on journalists in the Sichuan earthquake region. What reporters are facing there now in the days before the one-year anniversary of the May 12 disaster pales with what families seeking answers about why their children died in collapsed schools are dealing with, as ngos including Amnesty International and Chinese Human Rights Defenders have documented recently. (Ed Wong of the New York Times also has a moving story today about families who have had a second child since losing one last year.) But the way journalists are being handled in Sichuan now is a clear sign of how sensitive the issue remains one year later.
See the FCCC’s full statement with details of the attacks after the jump.
We have received three separate, confirmed reports today of journalists being physically attacked in Sichuan. Nobody has been hurt but equipment has been broken. The details are below. Given the violence of the encounters and an apparent increasing frequency of reports, it seems the situation is becoming more volatile and we advise extra caution when visiting these areas.
Katri Makkonen, a journalist with Finnish TV, was pushed and shoved while attempting to report in Fuxin, Deyang County. She said 10 people in plain clothes attempted to grab her team’s equipment and to drag the cameraman out of the car. The assailants broke a microphone in the scuffle. Nobody was hurt. The TV crew were followed when they left. “We almost lost our camera. It was very violent,” said Makkonen. “People should be very careful there.”
Jamil Anderlini of the Financial Times reported two violent incidents in Sichuan within less than 24 hours. In the first, on May 5, his crew was stopped from reporting in Fuxin while attempting to interview parents of children who died in the earthquake. An unidentified man tried to grab Anderlini’s video camera, then punched him in the arm. The FT crew retreated to its car after being surrounded by 10-12 men, one of whom then tried to punch the Chinese news assistant through a half-open car window. Uniformed police eventually broke up the scene and the team was followed out of town.
On May 6, the FT journalists arrived at the Mianyang government office to pick up its local reporting passes where they saw a local woman petitioning outside. When Anderlini attempted to film an interview with the woman, an unidentified man arrived and ripped the video camera from its tripod, tearing off the bottom of the camera. Anderlini asked the local propaganda office for compensation, but was told police would have to handle it. The team left the area.
The propaganda office told the FT police could stop any interview for any reason, and that “the reason the police were so violent with us was they were trying to protect us from the petitioner.”