Attempts by Xinjiang authorities to give overseas media open access to many areas of Urumqi almost backfired as Uygur protesters attempted to speak to journalists, prompting armed police to intervene. In contrast with the experience last March in Tibet , journalists were given greater freedom yesterday. Journalists were taken on a tour of the city and local authorities agreed to arrange interviews. Photographers were free to take pictures, including of armed police, something that was prohibited after the riots in Lhasa . But the media were still barred from sensitive areas such as hospitals and some Uygur neighbourhoods. Police claimed this was for journalists' safety. Journalists were urged to stay at the downtown Hoi Tak Hotel, located near the provincial government headquarters. A news centre was set up and 20-30 internet links were made available, though this was not enough as there were more than 100 media organisations present. Outbound international calls remained blocked in Xinjiang and long-distance phone calls were unavailable from time to time. Xinjiang authorities admitted on Monday that internet access in the region had been cut off to stop the spread of information, a move confirmed by Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Qin Gang yesterday. 'In the investigation of this incident, we have discovered that foreign separatist forces were using the internet and mobile phones to plan, instigate and conspire in this incident. Therefore authorities have taken the necessary steps to handle this incident, and to maintain stability in the area,' Mr Qin said. With the situation still unstable yesterday, journalists found themselves in the thick of things. A media trip yesterday morning to a Uygur community was interrupted when hundreds of Uygur women swarmed to the group to ask for the release of their husbands who were taken away by police on Monday evening. Armed police tried to stop journalists from interviewing the women and more than 100 journalists were herded onto four buses and driven away. A South China Morning Post reporter was stopped by four plain-clothes police in the afternoon when doing a second interview in the same area. 'Your glasses would be smashed immediately if you stay here without our protection. It is dangerous here, please go,' said a policeman who then drove the reporter back to hotel. A second media trip planned for the afternoon was cancelled when thousands of armed Han people marched towards Uygur areas. Police used tear gas to stop the protesters. Some media organisations complained their reporters were briefly detained. 'There might be cases where local authorities thought that the journalists have breached regulations, and this led to some misunderstanding and problems,' Mr Qin added.