CNN, local Chinese media struggle to report on Tianjin explosion

An original version of this article appeared in Hong Kong Free Press on August 13, 2015:

A CNN reporter was blocked by unidentified men from reporting live on the Tianjin explosion outside a hospital on Thursday morning.

At around noon, state-run Xinhua news agency reported that 44 people had been killed, including 12 firefighters. 520 others have been sent to hospital for injuries resulting from the massive explosion, with 66 in critical condition.

The CNN correspondent, Will Ripley, was speaking outside a hospital when he was confronted by several men, demanding him to end the live broadcast. Several men were heard shouting “stop recording” at the CNN crew. Ripley was seen saying “OK” multiple times before the live feed was interrupted.

CNN reporter tianjin

CNN reporter blocked from reporting on Tianjin explosion. Photo: CNN.

The CNN anchor later commented from the studio that this is a usual case of reporting in the country, adding, “This is something that has happened many times over the years in any number of stories in China.”

Local journalists in China also complained that they were blocked from reporting on the blast, Tencent news reported. A reporter who took photos inside a Tianjin hospital was threatened by security guards to delete the images.

The massive Tianjin explosion has made headlines across the world. International media, including CNN, BBC, RT News and Rai News, covered the incident on their front pages.

Tianjin explosion international headlines

Tianjin explosion making international headlines.

However, Sina News reported that Tianjin Television was broadcasting a Korean drama at 8am on Wednesday morning—eight hours after the incident unfolded.

Tianjin TV drama explosion

Tianjin TV broadcasting Korean drama eight hours after the explosion. Photo: Sina News.

A post also surfaced on Weibo, China’s microblogging site, that reporters working for Tianjin Television were ready to begin reporting on the blast. However, they were still waiting for permission to start the broadcast. The post quoted reporters on the scene saying that some crew had hoped to start the live report before noon.

Weibo Tianjin tv blocked explosion

The Weibo post that stated that the crew at Tianjin TV was still waiting for permission to report on the explosion.

Chinese media said the explosion occurred at a warehouse operated by the Ruihai International Logistics Company in Tianjin city. Police detained the person in charge of the enterprise.

On Thursday morning, the Chinese leaders ordered officers in the city to “make full effort in rescuing the injured, and search for those missing,” according to The Paper. Xi Jinping, the country’s president, also said police should investigate the cause of the incident and punish those responsible for the blast.

Update: CNN later clarified that the reporter was blocked by “upset friends and relatives of victims killed and injured in the China blasts”.

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