Foreign journalists covering press freedom protest detained in Beijing

AUGUST 6, 2007
Posted August 20, 2007

Foreign journalists:
Vincent Brossel, Reporters Without Borders
Fernando Castello, Reporters Without Borders
Robert Ménard, Reporters Without Borders

Rubina Möhring, Reporters Without Borders

More than a dozen foreign journalists reporting on a demonstration calling for press freedom in China were held by Beijing police for up to two hours, according to international news reports.

Police tried to prevent journalists from taking photographs as they gathered to cover the protest, which was organized by the international press freedom organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a member of the group told CPJ. Police seized journalists, temporarily confiscated their identity cards, and detained them at a parking lot across from the headquarters of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games, according to The Associated Press. Police released the group after about two hours without explaining the reason for their detention, according to the AP. 

Journalists had tried to leave the scene when police arrived, but heavy rain prevented their vehicles from moving, Vincent Brossel, head of RSF’s Asia desk and one of the organizers of the demonstration, told CPJ. According to Brossel, among those detained were reporters from AP, APTN, Agence France-Presse, France 2 television, and the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. No Chinese journalists were present, according to one detained reporter.

Brossel told CPJ that he and the other members of the RSF delegation left the scene on foot without incident. However, during the early morning hours of August 7, police cut the phone lines and searched the hotel rooms of Brossel and his three colleagues: Robert Ménard, RSF’s secretary-general; Fernando Castello, president of the organization’s Spanish section, and Rubina Möhring, vice president of the group’s Austrian section.  

Brossel told CPJ that police questioned him and his colleagues for two hours about the earlier demonstration. While his three colleagues boarded a plane back to Paris later that morning, police at the Beijing International Airport further detained Brossel in a police vehicle and then a closed room. He said the police took his passport and warned repeatedly that he had violated Chinese law. He said he was warned not to return to China.