06/06/2008, 00.00
CHINA
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Earthquake: with emergency over, "normal" censorship may be returning

The government announces "limits" on the number of journalists, and criticises those who pose "harmful questions" to survivors. Curbs on websites that talk about collapsed schools or delays in aid. Experts: it will not be possible to wipe out this new experience of complete, live information.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The government of Sichuan will limit the number of journalists allowed into the area of the earthquake.  Official sources explain that there are now at least 800 foreign journalists there, and that "some reporters have asked disaster survivors hurtful questions".  Meanwhile, restrictions have been placed on websites that until now had discussed the earthquake freely.

Foreign media are reporting that the ministry for propaganda and the state council have prohibited state media from discussing certain topics, like the poor construction of the schools that collapsed on students, the protests of their parents, the timeliness of aid, the possibility that Beijing knew ahead of time that the earthquake was coming.  These questions, especially the last, have raised a great deal of discussion on the internet.

During the first days following the earthquake, Beijing demonstrated an unusual degree of openness to national and foreign media, which were able to report live on the dimensions of the catastrophe, the self-sacrifice of the aid workers, the efforts to save every life.  The immense tragedy and the efforts of the state prompted solidarity all over the world.  But now, other kinds of news are making the headlines, beginning with the denunciations of parents over the many schools - with over 7,000 classrooms - that collapsed, killing thousands of students.  Yesterday, police continued to drive away journalists from the high school of Jiyuan and from the Xinjian elementary school in Dujiangyan, where parents had been meeting every day to call for explanations about the poor construction of the buildings and ask for justice, explaining that now "the entire street has been blocked off".  In Dujiangyan on June 4, the police led away journalists and drove off 100 parents who had threatened to petition against the poor construction of the school.

Many analysts comment that this may have been the first time in years that complete, live information has been available in the country and from the country: a new experience for the Chinese people, and one that they will not forget, just as they will not forget questions like those about the schools of Sichuan.

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