As the 2008 Beijing Games open, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China urges China to make good on its Olympic promise of an open reporting environment, to put a stop to violence against foreign reporters, and to better enforce its own laws and regulations.
The FCCC welcomes President Hu Jintao’s August 1 statement that China will “welcome foreign journalists and facilitate their reporting in China whether before or after the Beijing Olympic Games.” We are also encouraged by a promise from Liu Binjie, minister of the General Administration of Press and Publication, that “China’s open door to the foreign media will not close after the Games.”
But much more needs to be done to put these words into action. In the past two weeks the FCCC has been informed of violence by law enforcement personnel against Japanese, European and Hong Kong journalists. Several reporters suffered injuries or damage to their equipment. On the eve of the Olympics, China still blocks many internet sites, and foreign correspondents face interference when they seek to report on foreign and domestic critics of the Chinese government. Chinese sources report being intimidated or warned not to speak out. Promised reporting freedoms all too often wither away as soon as a subject becomes sensitive, as was apparent after the Tibetan unrest and the Sichuan earthquake. The authorities need to be more consistent.
“Despite progress in some areas, the FCCC is disappointed that the Chinese government has neither fully lived up to its Olympic promise of a free media environment nor made a clear-cut and enduring commitment to further openings after the Games,” said FCCC president Jonathan Watts. “We strongly urge China to match its growing global influence with greater accountability.” The easing of Internet restrictions and travel regulations should be made permanent.
To improve the professional environment for journalists, the FCCC has prepared a pocket legal guide to inform foreign correspondents of their rights when faced with some of the most common violations. Copies of a laminated card are available through the FCCC. The information is also available on our website www.fccchina.org. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.