China's Olympic Games
performance took the world by storm, but it gets mixed reviews in a report
issued today on official treatment of overseas journalists and media covering
A report issued by the International
Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the global sports communication group Play the
Game recognises that the Chinese decision last month to extend free-range
reporting rights to international media constitutes a welcomed progress. But
the report adds that the country has much to do before it can claim to live up
to international standards for a free press.
IFJ leaders meeting in Paris this month agreed to send a new international
mission to China
to continue a ground-breaking dialogue which they hope will lead to fresh
action to improve the conditions for local journalists.
"The Games were spectacular but the
glitz cannot hide the real problems that still exist for journalists and their
sources," said Aidan White,
IFJ General Secretary. "As this report shows the government must end harassment
of media and open itself up to legitimate scrutiny by independent journalists."
The report, issued as part of the
Play the Game for Open Journalism project, finds that the experience of journalists
during the Beijing Olympics varied according to what aspect of the games they
were reporting upon.
While most sports journalists were
largely satisfied, many of those following events off the field of play had
There were hundreds of violations of
media freedom rules for foreign correspondents during the Olympics, including the
roughing up of photographers, detention of journalists, intimidation of sources
and blocked access to politically sensitive hotspots within China.
The report concludes that there are
five areas where action is needed to make progress towards press freedom in China:
- Recent legislation allowing for freer working conditions for foreign journalists must also be extended to Chinese journalists, who still suffer from serious suppression.
- Restrictions on free coverage of certain subjects of vital importance to Chinese society, such as Falun Gong, Tibet, Xinjiang and Taiwan should be lifted.
- Sources must enjoy the same freedom as journalists to speak freely. Monitoring and targeting of sources is unacceptable and undermines press freedom.
- China must raise the level of media awareness and consciousness through campaigns and educational projects to ensure that local police and other authorities understand the rules covering media and are capable of implementing them.
Finally, China faces a major cultural
challenge -- to promote a debate about achieving its aims of a harmonious
society while allowing for critical and independent journalism that will
ensure society is fully informed of all points of view. The IFJ and Play
the Game insist that these objectives
are not contradictory.
Copies of the report can be
The Play the Game for Open Journalism
project is a joint initiative of the International Federation of Journalists,
the world's largest association of journalists, and Play the Game, a non-profit
organisation working to strengthen the basic ethical values of sport and
encourage democracy, transparency and freedom of expression in world sport.