The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today began a four-day official visit to China aiming to put in place measures that will protect journalists facing new threats as political confrontation intensifies in the run up to the Olympics.
"In the last few weeks the political heat has been turned up over Tibet and the Olympics and journalists have found themselves in the crossfire," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary, who is leading a group of journalists’ leaders from nine countries. "Our aim will be to take journalists out of the firing line and help them to do their job without interference."
The IFJ is meeting with Chinese state officials as well as leading media and the government-backed All China Journalists Association and will also be talking to a number of foreign correspondents, some of whom have found themselves threatened in the wake of Chinese anger over foreign media coverage of disturbances in Tibet and the Olympic torch rally, which has run into protests on its way through major world cities.
"The row over Tibet and the Olympics is a matter for politicians not media support groups," said White. "Our aim will be to get China to deliver on its promises of ending repression of journalists in the country and to open itself to independent media coverage around the Games."
The IFJ mission will discuss with the Beijing Olympic Committee how to ensure that journalists can be protected and exercise the right to report without interference during the Games.
The group will also raise with government officials the continuing detention of a number of journalists in China’s jails and will seek to establish new structures for dialogue to encourage fresh debate on press freedom issues between Chinese journalists and their colleagues abroad.
"Journalists given a free hand to do their job responsibly are an antidote to ignorance and prejudice. It’s time for more dialogue and less confrontation if we want to help Chinese journalists operate freely and get our colleagues released from jail," said White.
The members of the mission are: Aidan White, Gabriel Baglo (IFJ Africa Director, Senegal); Mogens Blicher Bjerregård (President, Danish Union of Journalists); Arne Konig (Swedish Journalists Federation and Chair of the European Federation of Journalists); Ulrike Maercks-Franzen (Secretary Deutscher Journalisten Union-Verdi, Germany); Michael Khlem (Deutscher Journalisten Verband, Germany); Nikos Megrelis (Journalists Union of Athens Daily Newspapers, Greece); Christopher Warren (Federal Secretary, Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, Australia); Don Gasper (Hong Kong Journalists Association).
For more information contact the IFJ at + 32 2 235 2207
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide