Interference with foreign journalists covering the Tianjin explosion
The FCCC notes with concern a number of incidents of interference with foreign journalists reporting on the chemical explosion in Tianjin.
Among the reports so far:
1. CNN’s Will Ripley encountered interference while filming a live report in front of a hospital.
According to Ripley’s own account broadcast on CNN and others on the scene who witnessed the incident, a man who appeared to be the relative of a victim of the accident began loudly grieving for his dead relative outside the hospital. Some other people nearby were attempting to console the man, while others were merely observing the commotion. At one point, a man in the crowd noticed New York Times reporter Andrew Jacobs on the scene and started yelling, “don’t let foreigners report on this!” and approached Jacobs, who was then on the phone with his editor. The man then turned his attention toward Ripley. Others joined in and interfered with Ripley’s filming, some shouted for him to delete his footage. A group of police on the scene prevented a colleague of Ripley’s from attempting to come to his aid. Police did not try to stop the group of people from disrupting Ripley’s work. One woman in the group was carrying a walkie-talkie, raising questions about whether she was indeed a family member or perhaps a plainclothes officer.
Xinhua later published a commentary on this incident: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2015-08/13/c_134513145.htm
2. CBS correspondent Seth Doane encountered interference from police who placed their hands and a soda bottle in front of his camera lens as he attempted to film a report.
3. A Taiwanese reporter said authorities confiscated his camera’s memory card and demanded that he kneel and beg for it back.
The journalist from Taiwan’s Eastern Multimedia Group came very close to the explosion site and started taking pictures at noon Thursday. Suddenly more than 10 policemen in uniform surrounded and questioned him, and tried to take him to the police station. Eventually this reporter was released after presenting his Taiwan ID. But a policeman removed the memory card of the reporter’s camera. The reporter demanded it back, to which the police replied “not unless you kneel down in front of me.” The reporter did not indicate he received the card back or receive an apology. The incident caused substantial anger among the Taiwanese press corps. (Ma Xiaoguang, the spokesman of China's state council office for Taiwan affairs said in response that the policeman must have been “very stressed” at the time. He also commented that this policeman should not be taken as representative of all policemen or the mainland government and said he hoped the Taiwan press “will not respond to it radically.”)
4. A video journalist for a European media outlet was harassed outside a hospital.
From the journalist: Myself and our photographer went to shoot outside the hospital (I think it was the same one the CNN got roughed up at). As we approached, still outside, i pointed my camera towards triage tents, guys who dressed like soldiers but said they were doctors asked me nicely not to film them. As I turned my camera towards the building itself, an angry woman with a radio ran up to us and told us we cant shoot. We asked why, she said 'because this is China!' we asked who she was, she said she was a Chinese. So we said as journalists we can shoot outside freely, before we could keep walking, a young cop came over. He said we cant film, no one can film. Meanwhile there are at least 4 local video crews interviewing people in plain sight a dozen meters away. Right in front of the entrance. One of the crews was from Hong Kong. but all looked Chinese. We asked the woman, she said foreigners can’t shoot here. We asked the cop, he said no one can shoot here.
The cop said he’d get the others to stop shooting, and made a lame attempt to get them to stop, then told us to point out who's filming to him and he would stop them. Of course we didn’t. Once crew was interviewing people right next to us. We asked the cop why he let them shoot and he said they were filming 'for fun’.
The woman with the radio never identified herself. She was in civilian clothing. She kept saying this is China, go away. She radioed in to someone to explain there were foreigners trying to shoot. Another woman started screaming at onlookers to help her stop these foreigners from filming, because we dont know their motivation etc etc. At this point the.young cop tried to calm her down. We aren’t pressing forward and aren’t retreating. We are non confrontational and relaxed. Eventually, the young cop calls a senior cop, who turns up and says no one an shoot. He denies Chinese crews (who are less than 10m away) are shooting. He requests our passports and checks them but doesn’t radio colleagues or take photos. When we say he has seen we are legitimate and we know the law, which says we can shoot outside, he gets angry and starts shouting that if we don’t leave, he will take us to the police station to check our credentials. We say he just checked our credentials, and he gets more angry. Eventually a guy in civilian clothes pulled him away. They gave us an ultimatum — go to the hotel media center now or go to the police station. We decided to go away so as not to waste hours at the police station. Meanwhile, local crews continued to shoot outside and inside the building.