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China intimidates FRANCE 24 reporter over Tibet film

Chinese diplomats have been overtly threatening a FRANCE 24 reporter who spent a week in Tibet filming under cover, while their demands that his report “Seven Days in Tibet” be removed or altered continue to be refused.

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FRANCE 24 reporter Cyril Payen has been subjected to “mafia"-style intimidation from Chinese diplomats angered by an under-cover report he filmed in Tibet.

Following the first broadcast of his “Seven days in Tibet” report on May 30, personnel from the Chinese embassy in Paris visited FRANCE 24’s offices to demand that it be taken off the channel’s website.

The demand was flatly refused by FRANCE 24’s Editor-in-Chief Marc Saikali, while a request by the embassy to interview Payen could not be fulfilled as the reporter had already left for Thailand, where he is based.

On his arrival, Payen was subjected to repeated calls on his mobile phone (the number had never been given to Chinese officials) demanding that he present himself at the Chinese embassy in Bangkok and explain his actions.

Payen told the diplomats he would be happy to meet them at a hotel, but was told they would only conduct an interview with him at their embassy.

A message left on Monday was openly threatening – Payen was told to stop postponing the meeting and to attend the embassy by Tuesday or else “take responsibility” for his refusal to comply.

"Everyone has advised me not to go to the Chinese embassy under any circumstances, that it would be dangerous for me," Payen said on Wednesday. "The French foreign ministry and FRANCE 24 are following this case closely, but it hasn't been an easy time for me. I'm not getting more than an hour's sleep a night."

'Mafia behaviour'

France-based Reporters Without Borders, an organisation that defends freedom of information and freedom of the press, was deeply critical of the Chinese diplomats' approach.

“Such unacceptable behaviour might be expected from the mafia but not from senior diplomats,” the organisation said in a statement.

“It is completely unacceptable for diplomats stationed in France and Thailand to try to intimidate a news outlet into modifying editorial content, to harangue a journalist and to summon him with the intention of interrogating him.

“Such methods are undoubtedly normal in China, and that is regrettable, but they have no place in a free country. The telephone threats that these diplomats made against a French journalist expose them to the possibility of judicial proceedings.”

On Wednesday, Saikali said that FRANCE 24 had alerted the French authorities to the harassment Payen has been subjected to.

He added that he was in constant contact with the reporter, who could expect ongoing support and assistance from the Paris-based channel.

“This is central to the way FRANCE 24 works,” he said. “We are always particularly attentive to the wellbeing of our correspondents, who are the lifeblood of this channel.”

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