Germany urges media freedom in China

1st April 2011, Comments 0 comments

Germany's foreign minister said Friday that foreign journalists must be able to work freely in China, after authorities placed restrictions on reporters trying to cover proposed public rallies.

The comment from Guido Westerwelle came at the end of wide-ranging talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, who insisted that Beijing provides foreign correspondents with "good working conditions".

Authorities have placed vague new curbs on the foreign press following a mysterious online call in February for "Jasmine" rallies echoing those in the Arab world, and even warned some they could lose their work permits.

Foreign journalists have been told they must apply for permission to work at proposed demonstration sites in major cities, though no one has been granted such authorisation. Others have been barred from doing street interviews.

Speaking alongside Yang, Westerwelle told reporters that he had emphasised the need for media freedom in his meeting with the Chinese minister and insisted that journalists should be free to work without restrictions.

Yang then said: "China welcomes reporters from all countries to work in China and will provide them with good working conditions under the law. We also hope that foreign reporters will abide by Chinese laws and regulations."

No obvious "Jasmine" protests were reported in Beijing and Shanghai but designated sites were blanketed by police in February. Foreign journalists have been obstructed, detained or roughed up.

The Foreign Correspondents' Club of China said last month that at least 14 journalists had been phoned or visited by police at their homes, and several were being tailed or had their residences monitored by plainclothes security.

Many visits were unannounced -- and sometimes late at night -- with police checking documents. An AFP journalist was visited at his home by police who asked to see his residence papers.

© 2011 AFP

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