Journalists association calls for better protection for reporters

08:57, August 09, 2010      

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Injured reporter Zhou Guangfu leaves after a press conference. (Alex Chang / For China Daily)

The All-China Journalists Association (ACJA) wants better protection for journalists' rights after a reporter was beaten when attempting to interview a stand-up comedian.

"It is imperative to safeguard journalists' legitimate rights to interview and stop any misconduct that interferes with journalists' legitimate interviews," said a brief announcement posted on the ACJA's website on Saturday.

"To have protection in accordance with the law is the legitimate right of media organizations."

The move came after Zhou Wenfu, a Beijing Television (BTV) reporter, was repeatedly punched on Aug 1 when he attempted to interview Guo Degang, China's most top stand-up comedian, at his villa. Clips of the beating have been circulated on the Internet and have been broadcast on BTV.

Zhou was trying to verify reports that Guo had illegally extended his property into the public green space.

But one of Guo's associates, Li Hebiao, opened the door and then beat Zhou in his head and arms.

Li apologized on Tuesday and was fined 200 yuan ($29.55) and has been put under a seven-day police detention since Thursday.

This is the second time in a week that Chinese authorities have called for better protection for journalists' rights.

On July 31, the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP) issued a statement on its website to stress need to protect reporters' rights in newsgathering.

The statement came after a string of alleged attacks against journalists who exposed scandals.

On July 28, the public security bureau of Suichang county of East China's Zhejiang province put the name of Qiu Ziming, a reporter of the Beijing-based Economic Observer, on an online wanted list. Qiu had reported that a local company was suspected of being involved in insider trading.

On July 29, journalist Chen Xiaoying from the China Times newspaper was beaten at a place where she was asked to meet an anonymous caller who had promised to give her a news tip.

Chen had earlier disclosed a sex scandal regarding the owner of an enterprise in Shenzhen before.

On July 30, four men from the Bawang Group broke into the Shanghai office of the National Business Daily and pushed and shoved reporters in the office. Bawang Group apologized to the newspaper on Thursday, Guangzhou media reported.

"Since the media are now having stronger voices, more and more interest groups are trying to resist their supervision," said Yu Guoming, director of the school of journalism and communication of the Renmin University of China.

"But so far there is no specific law in China to protect reporters' right."

In 2007 and 2008 GAPP issued circulars to urge the government to offer help and protection to legal newsgathering activities.

However, Yu said regulations are not enough, because newsgathering is an "extension of people's information right", and thus belongs to the public.

"The ACJA's statement is good. But I think the association should make use of its resources to appeal for legal protection over the right," Yu said.

He suggested the Supreme People's Court issue a judicial interpretation to offer more legal backing for reporters' newsgathering activities.

Xinhua contributed to this story.

By Cheng Yingqi, China Daily


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