Belgian TV news crew beaten in China

BANGKOK, Thailand (Hollywood Reporter) - A Belgian TV journalist and his crew were assaulted while reporting on AIDS in Central China.

The incident underscores the ongoing difficulties in bringing a new media openness to the provinces under an official change in policy that the government adopted around the time of the Summer Olympics in Beijing.

After interviewing several representatives of AIDS groups on Thursday, Belgian journalist Tom Van de Weghe and his production team from Flemish public television VRT were beaten and robbed of cash and equipment by 12 men recruited by authorities in Henan province, a VRT spokesperson said.

The incident echoes one in the spring in which a crew from U.S. broadcast network CBS’ newsmagazine show “60 Minutes” was assaulted when trying to film a plant processing toxic waste near the South China boomtown of Shenzhen.

Starting a year before the Summer Olympics, Beijing promised free access to foreign media reporting in China and recently extended those rules.

Even as foreign reporters continue to be blocked from covering news that might challenge the authority of the leading Communist party, AIDS awareness in China may yet spread via the Web.

The VRT incident, publicized Friday by global media watchdog Reporters Without Borders, follows close on the heels of an initiative by Yahoo! China and the United Nations Development Program to provide China’s 210 million search engine users with HIV prevention information even if they are not directly searching for it.

For instance, Yahoo China’s online ad space will ask viewers searching key words such as ‘sex,’ ‘porn’ and ‘gay,’ “Do you know about HIV and HIV Testing?”

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter