Shaanxi: Journalists working on lead poisoning story followed, harassed
An AP photographer, reporter, and APTN camera crew were followed by local government officials in Fengxiang county, Shaanxi province, who attempted to block or disrupt interviews with parents of children hospitalized for lead poisoning on Aug. 19.
A cameraman was asked for his press card, which a policeman photographed, and the reporters were directed to a hospital administrative office where they were told a spokesman would be made available to answer their questions. When none appeared, they left and briefly gained access to a ward where children were being treated, before being asked to leave. The officials withdrew after reporters crossed the county line.
Throughout the day, the journalists were tailed, and the officials would follow on foot, leaning in over their shoulders while they interviewed people.
The same officials visited the APTN crew at their hotel the previous night, asking them to leave, and saying that matters were being taken care of and foreign reporters had no business reporting about it.
None of this is surprising.
And China is not the only place where this happens.
The worst part about a lot of this is that this so-called “soft harassment” — let’s face it, just a few years ago the journalists would have been arrested rather than just followed — is the danger to sources of stories. The government officials know they can go after Chinese subjects more easily than the reporters. Besides the reporters will soon leave. The sources have to stay.
This issue of protection of sources in societies such as China and Iran is a growing concern and will be discussed later.