IOC To China: Don't Hinder Journalists

The International Olympic Committee criticized Chinese security officials who detained and manhandled a British journalist as he was covering a pro-Tibet protest on Wednesday.

"The IOC does disapprove of any attempts to hinder a journalist who is going about doing his job seemingly within the rules and regulations," IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies told a daily press briefing Thursday in Beijing. "This, we hope, has been addressed. We don't want to see this happening again."

John Ray, a Beijing correspondent for Britain's Independent Television Network, was set upon by police at the Chinese Ethnic Culture Park, near the "Bird's Nest" National Stadium. They pinned his arms, took away his shoes and phone and threw him into a police van, even though he repeatedly shouted that he was a journalist.

An official from the Beijing Public Security Bureau told the Associated Press that officers mistook Ray for an activist. The eight protesters he had been trying to cover, seven Americans and a Japanese citizen who is half-Tibetan, have been deported.

The incident is among several examples of foreign journalists being blocked from reporting in China, despite government and Olympic official promises the media would be free to operate in the country during the Games.

The Foreign Correspondent Club of China today reported another incident of harassment, this time involving reporters who were attempting on Aug. 7 to report on migrant workers who had been forced to leave Beijing as part of an Olympics "clean up" campaign.

Local officials and plainclothes officers approached the two, Kristoffer Ronneberg, correspondent for the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten, and Jes Randrup Nielsen of Jyllands-Posten in Denmark, five minutes after they arrived in a small village. A local official asked for their documents. Then three unmarked cars followed the journalists, "and made it impossible for us to talk to sources without putting them in danger," Ronneberg told the FCCC.

The official said the reporters needed permission from Chinese propaganda authorities to speak with residents, Ronneberg said, a violation of recently relaxed rules that allow foreign reporters to interview anyone who grants them permission. The reporters left without getting the story because of the obstructions, and said officials videotaped them as they departed.

-- Jill Drew

August 14, 2008; 8:19 AM ET  | Category:  Postmark Beijing
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

Among the over 20,000 reporters in China now, this is an isolated incident. The Chinese government is very committed to give journalists freedom to report, but there is a lag of training of how to handle situations by local or individual police. I saw the ITN footage and I would think the journalist is one of the activists, too. He was full of emotion and defiant in a chaotic scene. The tone of the Beijing government is also apologetic.

In the US, if a police asks a citizen to stop doing something that he suspects to be illegal, and the person resists with emotional and violent responses, I think the police would make an arrest immediately, too, no matter how benign the original act is.

Posted by: Geja | August 14, 2008 10:34 AM

Wow. Looks like we have the Chinese Government watching and posting here on the Washington Post Website churning out even more propaganda.

These are not isolated cases. Why was the White House Press Plane held for hours upon arrival in Beijing? Why was an NPR journalist barred from interviewing an American Athlete at the luggage claim? Why are reporters being followed and harrased in the first place?

Where is the promise for total press freedom the Chinese promised when bidding for these games?

I have visited China and I love the people and the country, but the government does the country a diservice by their constant control of information, their continued propaganda and their subpression of even the smallest criticisms.

China would do themselves a whole deal of good by embracing their flaws and working towards fixing them rather than trying to project an image that everything is perfect.

Posted by: Freedom of the Press | August 14, 2008 11:50 AM

According to CNN live records, the British journalist told the Chinese police that he holds a proved journalist ID. However, the Chinese police still hindered him. Thus, it is not a “mistook”, and the Chinese authorities must apologize for their wrong doing.

Posted by: lyz95 | August 14, 2008 2:02 PM

The thing is the British journalist kept saying he was a journalist in ENGLISH! Too BAD he cannot speak even a full sentence in Chinese, despite he has been in China for 2 years, and reporting on China since 2000. So, learn the language, please. The police officer, unfortunately didn't understand what he was saying. Above all, the ITN crew seemed cannot differentiate Chinese security guards from the real police officers.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 14, 2008 2:32 PM

the majority of international visitors (400,000) did not report any problems in Beijing. Such incident would happen in the U.S. due to miscommunication, just like a few year back at the U.S./Candada border, a Chinese female tourist got detained and beaten up by U.S. border patrol officers because they were not able to communicate properly.

Posted by: Brian | August 14, 2008 5:02 PM

Oh yes, the young Communist Party members are on their rears at the computer all day long on all US internet news sites posting this kind of garbage. You don't think normal people there can read the Post, do you?

Maybe the Peoples' Liberation Army is afraid reporters will hear more of this:

'Olympics Are A Waste Of Money'

Alex Watts, Sky News reporter, in Beijing

Residents in China have criticised the massive amount Beijing is shelling out on staging the world's most expensive Olympic Games.

The very expensive opening ceremony for the Olympics has angered locals.

The Communist regime has spent billions on lavish sports venues, the world's biggest airport terminal, and a huge security operation.

All this while sweatshop conditions are widespread and millions are still homeless after May's deadly earthquake in the region.

Of course, the official line is the country’s 1.3 billion people are delighted that the Games have arrived.

And the groundswell of pride and nationalist fervour in China is obvious.

But privately there is anger from some that the leadership continues to declare that running a successful Games is its "number one priority".

Speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, some in the capital told Sky News the money would have been better spent on helping the country's poor.

A 21-year-old student, gazing out across the futuristic cityscape at the "Bird's Nest" centrepiece, said: "It's terrible the money they wasted.

"Millions of people live and work in terrible conditions, but the government doesn't think of them.

"They have spent our taxes on buildings – and who does it help? It does nothing for the people of this country."

A taxi driver, who has family in the impoverished Guizhou province, said: "It’s all for Beijing – but what about the rest of the country?

"What about those who lost their homes in the earthquake? What about the people who try to feed their families and send their children out to work?"

The estimated £20bn [pounds] spent on the 29th Olympiad represents nearly £20 [pounds] for every Chinese citizen – in a country where many survive on £1 [pound] a day.

But it is impossible to get an official figure for the amount spent – and all of the Government and Olympics departments contacted by Sky News were characteristically unavailable for comment.

A spokeswoman for the Beijing International Media Centre would only say: "We do not know the exact figure."

Posted by: Chicago1 | August 14, 2008 6:03 PM

By the way, "Anonymous", learn to speak English before casting stones. We don't have to learn Chinese; it is not important. Why should authorities need to understand anything when people are talking to people? What business is it of theirs? Never mind. We know. EVERYTHING is their business.

Posted by: 13yrOldGymnast | August 14, 2008 6:13 PM

In my opinion they have the right to express their opinion,but if i saw a man or woman who dared to hold a flag of free tibet in front of me. heor she would be very careful.:-(

Posted by: runner | August 14, 2008 10:51 PM

"the government does the country a diservice by their constant control of information, their continued propaganda and their subpression of even the smallest criticisms.

China would do themselves a whole deal of good by embracing their flaws and working towards fixing them rather than trying to project an image that everything is perfect."

you are right. I can't agree more

Posted by: zz | August 14, 2008 10:53 PM

"In my opinion they have the right to express their opinion,but if i saw a man or woman who dared to hold a flag of free tibet in front of me. heor she would be very careful.:-("

This is a striking admission?

What are you so afraid of? What are you so angry about?

The Tibetan people are wonderful, peaceful individuals who want the freedom to practice their faith and live the life they deserve.

What is the threat they pose?

China is a large country with vast wealth and resources?

What is so terrible with allowing personal freedoms?

Suppressing, harassing and torturing a whole group of people only shows the true colors of the the Chinese government.

Posted by: What are you afraid of? | August 14, 2008 11:27 PM

Hi "What are you afraid of? ', you mean that those so called Tibetan can express anything they want, but Chinese is not allowed to speak out their feeling? I guess anything Chinese said would be assumed as suppression and harassment to Tibetans in your opinion. Is that speech of freedom you mean?

Posted by: april | August 15, 2008 2:23 PM

We may be getting slightly off topic re. the original article, however I feel compelled to respond to the posting by April. The preceding post, while eccentrically question-marked, was essentially factual. To be delicate, and without wishing to upset our sponsored Chinese correspondents, it seems April is implying that "speaking out" one's "feeling" can legitimately be expressed by invading a sovereign nation, suppressing, subduing and subjugating a proud native culture and religion.

It is a sorry state of affairs when the apologists of the mighty and the unrepentant call on the beleaguered liberty that we assume so lightly, free speech.

Posted by: Malkatraz | August 15, 2008 7:05 PM

The AFP article states that the journalist repeatedly told the police, in the Chinese language, that he was a journalist, yet they nevertheless wrestled him to the ground and stomped his hands.

Posted by: David B | August 16, 2008 2:52 AM

Rumor had it that John Ray was drunk. He was kicked around by the spectators and the police rescued him.

Posted by: Anti-London2012 | August 16, 2008 7:04 AM

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