China quake zone draws 550 journalists from overseas media 2008-05-22 18:21:48   Print

Special report: Strong Earthquake Jolts SW China

    BEIJING, May 22 (Xinhua) -- Some 550 journalists from 114 overseas media organizations including 326 foreigners, have been to quake-hit areas in Sichuan and other provinces in southwest China to cover news, according to statistics released by disaster relief departments on Thursday.

    The statistics showed 1,209 Chinese journalists have done reporting in those areas, since a 8.0-magnitude earthquake struck on May 12.

    "I booked my flight to Chengdu and went for a brief trip to cover the research of earthquake aftermath. I did not encounter any restrictions," said Richard Stone, Asian editor of the American journal, Science, who were just back from Sichuan.

    "The vigorous flow of information and the fast response from top officials and rescue workers stood in stark contrast to the way China handled the Tangshan earthquake," The New York Times said on May 13.

    In 1976, a 7.8-magnitude quake flattened Tangshan, in the northern province of Hebei, killing 242,769 and leaving 164,851 critically injured.

    The death toll, however, was kept secret for three years and was not revealed until 1979.

    The new regulations issued by the State Council, which took effect on January 1 of 2007, provided more freedom for foreign journalists' reporting in China before and during the Beijing Olympics. For instance, they no longer need to contact local foreign affairs offices, before they go outside Beijing to do interviews, as long as they have consent from the interviewees.

    Governments at all levels were also asked to publish "government information on issues which need to be known by the public or need public participation," according to another set of regulations, which took effect on May 1.

    "An earthquake is a catastrophe that concerns the life and property of millions, and the more information released on it, the better," said Mo Jihong, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

    "The quake was too massive for us to cope with it alone. Through the timely and full release of information, the outside world will know what happened here and give us help," said He Biao, director of the emergency response office of Aba Prefecture, of which Wenchuan, the epicenter, forms a part.

Editor: Gao Ying
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