CHINA: Tibet news censored

The Chinese government restricts local and international media from reporting on the unrest in Tibet

By Eric Ku
AsiaMedia Staff Writer

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Amid increasingly violent demonstrations in Tibet, China clamped down on media coverage of the region, censoring state media, forbidding foreign journalists access and blocking news of events from foreign websites.

State media provides only information from the government's perspective, said the Committee to Protect Journalists. Beijing's official line is that the recent riots are an attempt to undermine the Beijing Olympics next summer. Also, according to an International Herald Tribute (IHT) report, the Chinese government has denounced the Dalai Lama and protestors as separatists aiming to destroy the "social harmony" that the government has established in Tibet.

Reports of the number of deaths due to the protests and government response are conflicting. While Chinese officials reported a total of 16 deaths, advocacy groups from the Tibet Autonomous Region claimed that as many as 80 deaths have resulted from the Tibetan pro-independence protests that began on March 10.  

International reporters have been completely banned from the region. On Saturday, foreign travel to Tibet was formally cut off, and at least six Hong Kong reporters were escorted out of Lhasa on Monday. During an annual press conference on Tuesday, Premier Wen Jiabao said that while the region was closed currently to foreign journalists, he would consider the possibility of an organized visit for foreign media to see the state of Lhasa, according to Xinhua news agency.

But news about the protests in Tibet remained highly restricted for Chinese. CNN, the BBC, Google News, Yahoo and YouTube have either experienced service disruptions or been completely blocked in parts of China. A complex keyword search filter also has prevented the public from viewing most online accounts. Searches for terms such as "Tibet" and "Tibet riots" either lead to results unrelated to the current situation or links to deleted articles.