Foreign correspondents' club in China warns reporters

Chinese police surround a group of foreign journalists in the Wangfujing shopping street in Beijing, 27 February 2011 Journalists often face harassment or worse when covering sensitive issues

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The Foreign Correspondents Club in China has issued a warning to members after three employees of European media companies were attacked last week.

The reporters were covering land rights protests in the village of Panhe, in the eastern Zhejiang province.

In one incident, a French reporter had his car rammed and a group of men beat up his Chinese assistant.

In a separate incident, a Dutch correspondent was attacked by men who appeared to be plain-clothes police.

The Chinese authorities say foreign journalists are free to report in the country apart from Tibetan areas, where restrictions apply.

But the BBC's Martin Patience in Beijing says the attacks show an increased willingness to use violence against foreign journalists.

Our correspondent says that journalists often face harassment or worse when covering sensitive issues.

Correspondents from several news organisations, including the BBC, have been detained in recent months when trying to cover unrest in Tibetan areas.

But the greatest threat to reporters is groups of thugs who often appear to be plain-clothes police, our correspondent says.

The authorities almost always insist that the attackers are just "angry villagers".

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