October 29, 2013 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Massive censorship of Tiananmen Square “traffic incident”

Reporters Without Borders condemns the government’s censorship of yesterday’s incident in Tiananmen Square in which five people, including two tourists, died when car a drove into pedestrians and then caught fire.

“We deplore the way the authorities illegally detain journalists and confiscate their material,” Reporters Without Borders said. “In the era of new technologies and social networks, it is pointless using such methods to try to hush up such a major event. The authorities need to realise that media coverage of such events does not threaten them.”

Police arrested two AFP journalists – a photographer and a video-reporter – who tried to cover the event. They were released half an hour later and their equipment was returned to them, but their photographs and video footage had been deleted. Journalists with the BBC and apparently Sky News were also briefly arrested.

Every effort was made to censor information about the incident, which was the subject of a great deal of comment on the Internet, above all on social networks including Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter. Photos of the incident were removed from microblogs and Internet connection speeds were slowed right down, while pedestrian access to the square was blocked.

The police erected screens so that the gutted car could not be seen. News bulletins on the national television station CCTV did not mention the incident while other media mentioned it only briefly, calling it a “traffic incident.”

China is on the Reporters Without Borders list of “Enemies of the Internet” and is ranked 173rd out of 179 countries in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.