MONTREAL, Nov. 29 /CNW Telbec/ -
Mr. Jacques Rogge
International Olympic Committee
Paris, 29 November 2007
Dear Mr. Rogge,
We are receiving extremely disturbing reports from China about the way
the authorities are preparing for the arrival of tens of thousands for
journalists and media workers for the Beijing Olympic Games.
It is becoming clearer and clearer that the organisers of the Beijing
Olympics and the Chinese security apparatus have decided to control
journalists very closely before and during the games. The authorities
said, for example, that they were planning to compile files on
journalists and reserved the right to turn them back even if they were
accredited by National Olympic Committees.
You must be aware that the games organisers announced that they were
going to conduct ID checks on all accredited journalists. Yang Minghui,
the deputy head of the games accreditation office, defended this decision
as a security requirement, as if journalists could pose a threat or be
potential terrorists. "If they do not pass the tests, their accreditation
requests will be refused and the process will stop there," he said,
adding that "the aim is to eliminate people who pose problems for the
security of the games."
Other Olympic cities compiled files on journalists in the past, but this
was for organisational purposes and never with the intention of refusing
entry on grounds which - as everyone must realize in the case of Beijing
- are political.
The announcement followed an earlier one by the General Administration of
Press and Publications (GAPP) that it was going to compile files on the
approximately 30,000 journalists coming to the games. A GAPP
representative said the purpose was to identify "fake journalists" and to
help Chinese officials respond to interview requests. But the government
has not said what kind of information will be gathered.
In recent months, there have been several leaks in the media about the
instructions given to the public security and state security departments
as regards identifying groups in China and abroad that are likely to want
to demonstrate during the games. Journalists could also be targeted by
this preventive surveillance and it is possible that hundreds of people
will be banned from entering China.
Reporters Without Borders hailed the adoption of new rules for the
foreign press last January. But, 11 months later, the results are
negative. It is true that the foreign ministry has in some cases tried to
help foreign journalists who had been detained or attacked, but we have
registered more than 50 cases clearly showing that the authorities are
not respecting the new rules.
Barbara Luthi, the Beijing correspondent of the Swiss TV channel
Schweizer Fernsehen, and her Chinese camerawoman were, for example,
recently hit and detained for seven hours by the authorities in Shengyou,
a village in Hebei province where unrest led to the deaths of several
residents in 2005. At least five foreign journalists have been prevented
from working in this village, located near Beijing, in recent months.
Mathias Brascheler and Monika Fisher, a Swiss husband-and-wife team of
photographers, were recently detained for three hours in Wuchang, in
Hubei province, while preparing a report on villagers who had been
threatened and beaten in connection with a land dispute.
Even more serious is the fact that Chinese journalists and dissidents
continue to fall victim to repression. For example, cyber-dissident Yang
Maodong, who is better known by the pseudonym of Guo Feixiong, was
sentenced to five years in prison and a heavy fine in mid-November for
publishing a book without permission. Cyber-dissident and blogger He
Weihua was confined against his will to a psychiatric hospital in Hunan
in August. Relatives told Reporters Without Borders he has no mental
illness whatsoever and that the real reason for this measure was the
articles he had posted on his blog, www.boxun.com/hero/hewh/. In all,
about 100 journalists, cyber-dissidents and human rights activists are
currently detained in China.
Human rights organisations are noting an increase in political
repression. According to the Dui Hua Foundation, the number of trials on
a charge of "jeopardising state security" has doubled from last year to
this. Quoting officials sources, the foundations says no fewer than 600
people have arrested on this charge.
As you know, those targeted also include people who provide the outside
world with information about political repression. Three Tibetans have
just been sentenced by a court in Kardze, in Sichuan province (adjoining
Tibet), to prison sentences ranging from three to ten years for
"espionage for foreign organisations endangering state security." Their
crime was to have sent abroad photos of demonstrations by Tibetan nomads
in early August.
We also deplore the often disturbing level of propaganda and nationalist
fervour surrounding the preparations for the Olympic Games. On
19 November, for example, the government newspaper Huanqiu Shibao (Global
Times) attacked foreign news media that "spread rumours to destabilise
the government," citing the Washington Post, the International Herald
Tribune, Die Welt, Associated Press and Voice of America. Mentioning
Reporters Without Borders, it also criticised NGOs that keep relaying
"prejudices" about China.
Similarly, in the past month the Propaganda Department sent a written
directive to the leading Chinese news media asking them to avoid
publishing "negative" stories on matters affecting the games such as air
pollution, a dispute over Taiwan's inclusion in the Olympic torch relay,
and public health issues.
It was expected that the foreign news media would be allowed greater
access to the Chinese market before the Olympic Games. Instead, the
government has maintained its monopoly of the sale of news to Chinese
media, depriving foreign news agencies of potential clients. In response
to questions by the European Union, Canada, Japan and the United States
before the Word Trade Organisation, China said on 12 November that it had
not signed any provision requiring it to open up the business news
market. When the state news agency Xinhua's control over the distribution
of foreign news agency content was reinforced in September 2006, we
described Xinhua as a predator of free enterprise and the freedom to
report the news.
This is not the first time that we have written to you, Mr. Rogge, to ask
you to speak out and take action on behalf of press freedom in China. You
have never replied directly, letting other IOC members argue that your
organisation does not concern itself with political matters. We have met
IOC officials in Lausanne, but no concrete measures for the press ensued.
The organisation you head is constantly trumpeting the progress being
made with the work on the Beijing games infrastructure but it has not
made any public statement of concern about the lack of freedom of
expression, which will undermine the work of the media and the
transparency that is needed for the games.
Mr. Rogge, it is your silence that has unfortunately made all these
abuses possible. We continue to think that the IOC should do everything
it can to influence the policies of the Beijing games organisers towards
Chinese and foreign journalists. A failure to rise to this key challenge
would represent an enormous setback in the history of the Olympic
I look forward to your reply.
For further information:
For further information: Emily Jacquard, secretary general, Reporters
Without Borders Canada, (514) 521-4111, Cell: (514) 258-4208, Fax: (514)