His Excellency President Hu Jintao
Beijing, People's Republic of China
12 February 2009
We are writing on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and the World Editors Forum, which represent 18,000 publications in 102 countries, to express our serious concern at the cancellation of relaxed press regulations for Hong Kong and Macau journalists that were introduced in the run-up to the Olympic Games.
According to reports, on 6 February the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office announced that journalists from the two special administrative regions would no longer enjoy the relaxed press regulations that were introduced for the Olympic Games and subsequently extended. Although the relaxed regulations, which allow freedom to travel and freedom to interview without prior permission from authorities, still apply to foreign journalists, reporters from Hong Kong and Macau must notify the Chinese authorities before travelling to the mainland. They must also obtain a press card from the All-China Journalists Association before working, which must be shown before interviewing Chinese citizens.
We are seriously concerned that these restrictions give the Chinese authorities the power to select which journalists from Hong Kong and Macau are allowed to enter the mainland and what they can report on, thereby censoring news in the special administrative regions.
Only three days after imposing the more restrictive regulations, your government stated to the UN Human Rights Council that "China is fully committed to the promotion and protection of human rights". We believe
that allowing Chinese journalists the same rights as foreign journalists would indicate that China was honouring this commitment.
We respectfully remind you that the right to freedom of expression is a fundamental human right that is guaranteed by numerous international conventions, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 19 of the Declaration states: 'Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media, regardless of frontiers.'
We respectfully call on you to do everything possible to ensure that the relaxed press regulations are extended to all journalists, including those from Hong Kong, Macau and the mainland. We also urge you to take all necessary steps to ensure that China honours the promises it made in its successful Olympic bid to allow more freedom of expression.
We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.
World Association of Newspapers
World Editors Forum
WAN is the global organization for the newspaper industry, with formal representative status at the United Nations, UNESCO and the Council of Europe. The organization groups 18,000 newspapers in 102 countries, 12 news agencies and 11 regional and world-wide press groups. WAN is non-governmental and non-profit.