IOC has 'broken promise' to push for media freedom in China

Article Link
Tuesday, 05 February 2008

The International Olympic Committee has broken its promise to push China for greater media freedom ahead of the Beijing Games, a journalist rights group said in Hong Kong yesterday.

China is the "world's leading jailer of journalists" with 29 writers and reporters behind bars, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said here.

Bob Dietz, Asia co-ordinator for the CPJ, said he was "surprised" the IOC had not done more to pressure China into loosening restrictions on reporters.

"China made a promise to the IOC, but the IOC made a promise to the world that the media policy would be greatly improved," Dietz told reporters, at the launch of the CPJ's annual report "Attacks on the Press."
"To the best of my knowledge they (the IOC) have not pressed very hard, although we are not privy to all their meetings with China," he added.
Dietz said China had now been the leading jailer of journalists for nine straight years.

He added that there seemed to be a new focus on Internet journalists, with 18 of the 29 jailed reporters working online.

He called on Beijing to make a "significant gesture" and release the journalists before the Games, which start in August.

He also called on Beijing to allow mainland journalists to work for foreign news organisations, something that is currently banned.

China made a public commitment to improve press freedom when it won the Olympics in 2001.

Since then, the central government has been regularly criticised by rights groups for locking up journalists and restricting their movement, despite trumpeting some loosening of rules on foreign media.