Beijing Olympics - European parliamentarians to look into freedom of speech of Olympics athletes



    MONTREAL, March 18 /CNW Telbec/ - ARTICLE 19 and Reporters Without
Borders welcome the decision by the Council of Europe parliamentarians to look
into freedom of speech of Olympic athletes and hold a public hearing on the
issue.
    Athletes, representatives of the IOC and the national Olympic committees
concerned, as well as Chinese representatives, will be invited to the hearing,
which is likely to take place during the Assembly's forthcoming session
(14-18 April).
    "We are celebrating this year the 60th anniversary of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights, which has provided strong protection for freedom
of expression, universally acknowledged at the time, as it is today, to be a
fundamental human right. We urge the European parliamentarians to take a
strong stand against any restrictions imposed on European athletes on what
they can say during the China Olympics." ARTICLE 19 and Reporters without
Borders said.
    The two organisations added: "The decision taken by some national
committees to prevent their athletes from speaking out on human rights abuses
in China or elsewhere is unacceptable. It is a clear violation of the
athletes' freedom to expression, a right that belongs to everyone,
everywhere."
    ARTICLE 19 and Reporters Without Borders have called on national Olympic
committees to jointly undertake to impose no restrictions on their athletes'
freedom of speech when they are in Beijing, and urged the European Olympic
committees to declare unambiguously that statements about human rights do not
fall within the scope of Article 51(3) of the Olympic Charter. The two
organisations have also hailed the initiatives taken by several Olympic
committees such as those of Sweden and Norway, which are going to brief their
athletes about the human rights situation in China.
    Olympic athletes should not be deterred from giving sincere and honest
responses to journalists' questions or from making comments on the situation
of human rights in China or other countries out of fear that those statements
will affect their sports careers in any way. Athletes and NOCs need to
understand this and that Article 51(3) in no way justifies restricting
athletes' right to make such statements.
    Preventing athletes from talking about human rights abuses, contrary to
their right to freedom of expression, violates the fundamental principles at
the heart of the Olympic Charter, contradicts the spirit of the Olympic Games
and amounts to condoning the human rights abuses committed by too many
countries around the world, including China.




For further information:

For further information: Katherine Borlongan, secretary general,
Reporters Without Borders, (514) 521-4111, Cell: (514) 258-4208, Fax: (514)
521-7771, rsfcanada@rsf.org

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