The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the World Editors Forum have condemned Chinese censorship in a case that has provoked a rare show of public protest in support of press freedom in China.

In a letter to President Hu Jintao, the global press organizations called on the Chinese authorities to “end the culture of state censorship” that frequently targets critical publications and stifles freedom of expression.

On 3 January 2013, state censors blocked publication of a pro-reform editorial in the Guangdong-based Southern Weekly newspaper. The title – one of the most outspoken in China – was due to run with an article calling for the realization of a "dream of constitutionalism in China" to protect people’s rights.

Censors replaced the article without the knowledge of the paper’s editors, a move which provoked unprecedented public demonstrations and strike action by journalists in support of freedom of expression. While the strike ended after censors agreed to refrain from any future meddling in the paper’s editorial line, it remains to be seen just how long lasting such concessions will be.

In a separate incident, WAN-IFRA urged Chinese authorities to hasten the accreditation process involving foreign journalists after New York Times correspondent Chris Buckley was forced to leave mainland China after a three-and-a-half-month delay in processing his journalistic credentials. No explanation was given for the delay, although concerns have been raised that it might be in response to recent articles in The New York Times concerning Premier Wen Jiabao and his family

New York Times bureau chief Philip Pan has also been waiting for more than nine months for his accreditation, while a further 20 foreign correspondents have experienced similar delays in recent months.

“Chinese authorities must ensure timely delivery of accreditations, particularly ahead of what is set to be an import year of political transition,” said WAN-IFRA Press Freedom Director, Alison Meston. “Furthermore, the international press stands in solidarity with the Southern Weekly in its latest attempt to speak freely to its readership and encourage open debate on the future of Chinese society?”

The full letter can be read at http://www.wan-ifra.org/node/70804

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