China fails to meet media freedom commitment: Rights group

July 7th, 2008 - 6:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, July 7 (DPA) China has failed to meet its commitment to allow greater freedom for foreign journalists in the run-up to next month’s Olympic Games, a rights group said on Monday. “The gap between government rhetoric and reality for foreign journalists remains considerable,” US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report.

“Their working conditions today, while improved in some respects, have deteriorated in other areas, dramatically in the case of Tibet,” the group said.

The government introduced a temporary regulation from January 2007 to October 2008, in principle allowing foreign journalists to talk to anyone who agrees to an interview, in all areas except for the Tibet.

But HRW reporters in reality “face severe difficulties in accessing ‘forbidden zones’ geographical areas and topics which the Chinese government considers ’sensitive’ and thus off-limits to foreign media”.

The limits mean that some news topics, such as protest and dissent, “cannot be covered in detail or at all” by foreign media.

The report said strictly controlled Chinese journalists had gained nothing from the temporary rules and were “subject to further controls” in the run-up to the Olympics.

Many Chinese citizens interviewed by foreign media face increasing intimidation, while some foreign journalists received death threats after reporting the widespread rioting in Tibetan areas of China in March and April, it said.

“In part because the IOC (International Olympic Committee) has been unwilling to voice concerns publicly over these developments, hopes for improvements in 2008 appear increasingly faint,” it said.

The Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy Monday said police had arrested two activists who posted online details of poorly constructed buildings that collapsed during the Sichuan earthquake in May.

Last month, Paris-based Reporters Without Borders also criticized the IOC and said it had recorded at least 24 arrests or sentencings of journalists, dissidents and rights activists this year.

“Instead of an opening, these games are being used, more than ever, as a pretext to arrest, harass and censor,” the group said.

HRW said it was “concerned that violations of the temporary regulations and state-sanctioned vilification of foreign journalists in China could poison the pre-games atmosphere” for the estimated 30,000 foreign journalists who will cover the Olympics.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in World |