On February 21, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC) issued a statement saying it was “dismayed that the conditions for independent reporting in China continue to fall short of international standards during the Winter Olympic Games.”
According to the Beijing-based group, the government’s interference with reporting by foreign journalists occurred regularly during the Games from February 4 to February 20, illustrating the challenging operating environment for foreign media in China.
The FCCC said foreign reporters had been frequently tailed and manhandled by Chinese propaganda and security officials during the Games when they tried to report within and outside the Olympic venues.
Dutch reporter Sjoerd den Daas from Nederlandse Omroep Stichting (NOS), for example, was forcefully dragged off-camera by several security officials in the middle of a live broadcast of the Games’ opening ceremony on February 4.
Another foreign reporter was prevented by a Chinese official from interviewing a Hong Kong athlete after a ski event, despite the activity being in line with international Olympic rules.
Numerous reporters were also told that all reporting in public areas must first be approved by the Chinese authorities, while others were targeted with online harassment following their coverage of Olympic events, the FCCC noted. These online attacks were sometimes directly fueled by Chinese state media and diplomats, the group added.
The FCCC said the Chinese authorities had failed to deliver their promises to allow accredited foreign journalists to book and conduct their own interviews without threat of state interference and to report freely in public areas.
The IFJ said: “The IFJ joins the FCCC in expressing concern over the Beijing authorities’ persistent interference with foreign journalists’ reporting during the Olympic Games. China has used the international sports event to project itself as a powerful nation, but its handling of press freedom continues to fall short of international standards.”