Journalist Group Denounces CCP Clampdown on Media at Winter Olympics

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC) said on Feb. 21 that it’s “dismayed” by the Chinese regime’s interference with journalists who were covering the Winter Olympics in Beijing. “The FCCC is disappointed that China has tightened conditions for the press, contrary to the Olympic spirit,” the organization said in a statement. The reporters’ group pointed to an instance of an Olympics official preventing a foreign reporter from interviewing a Hong Kong athlete in the mixed zone following a ski event, even though international Olympics rules are supposed to apply in those areas. While the International Olympics Committee described the incident as an “isolated” case, the FCCC said that official interference took place “regularly” throughout the Games, describing this as “a symptom of the challenging operating environment for foreign media in China.” Even before the Olympics began, concern over Beijing’s surveillance and interference of foreign media at the Games was so severe that some journalists resolved to use “burner” phones and laptops that they could throw away upon finishing their coverage, to thwart any efforts to use tracking software that would enable the regime to monitor the devices’ contents. It has been common for security and propaganda officials to follow, harass, and manhandle reporters trying to report outside Olympic venues, the FCCC stated. As an example, the FCCC cites the internationally criticized incident on the night of the opening ceremony, in which a guard wearing a red armband accosted and pushed Dutch television journalist Sjoerd den Dass during his report for broadcaster NOS on a busy street near the stadium. The FCCC noted that den Dass was standing in a spot to which the police had directed him only minutes earlier. The mishandling of den Dass is far from the only incident to have sparked concern. The FCCC cited further incidents including security officers physically preventing reporters from interviewing local residents near the Olympic skiing venue, and police intervening to prevent a crew from the French news agency AFP from filming the opening ceremony from a private apartment 1.2 miles from the Bird’s Nest stadium and not within the official cordoned-off area. In addition to those instances of physical harassment and interference with the work of international journalists, the FCCC expressed concern about restrictions issued by Chinese officials, who told journalists that all reporting in public areas required approval in advance from authorities. “Security officials in Beijing seemed particularly sensitive about reporters filming anything Olympic-related,” the organization’s statement continues, citing the blocking of a reporter from a U.S. news outlet from interviewing people about the Olympic mascot outside an official merchandise store, and officials telling the reporter to get in touch with the foreign ministry to pursue an interview. Officials also told a journalist that she didn’t have permission to film the Olympic logo. In addition, a number of journalists have become the target of online harassment campaigns arising from their coverage of the Games. Chinese state media and unnamed diplomats drove some of these attacks, the FCCC said. “The FCCC urges Chinese authorities to uphold their own stated rules on accredited foreign press in China: namely, to allow journalists to book and conduct their own interviews without the threat of state interference and to report freely in public areas,” the statement reads. “Unfortunately, neither rule was enforced, at a time when global attention was trained on China more than ever.” China Reporter Follow Michael Washburn is a New York-based reporter who covers China-related topics. He has a background in legal and financial journalism, and also writes about arts and culture. Additionally, he is the host of the weekly podcast Reading the Globe. His books include “The Uprooted and Other Stories,” “When We're Grownups,” and “Stranger, Stranger.”

Journalist Group Denounces CCP Clampdown on Media at Winter Olympics

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC) said on Feb. 21 that it’s “dismayed” by the Chinese regime’s interference with journalists who were covering the Winter Olympics in Beijing.

“The FCCC is disappointed that China has tightened conditions for the press, contrary to the Olympic spirit,” the organization said in a statement.

The reporters’ group pointed to an instance of an Olympics official preventing a foreign reporter from interviewing a Hong Kong athlete in the mixed zone following a ski event, even though international Olympics rules are supposed to apply in those areas.

While the International Olympics Committee described the incident as an “isolated” case, the FCCC said that official interference took place “regularly” throughout the Games, describing this as “a symptom of the challenging operating environment for foreign media in China.”

Even before the Olympics began, concern over Beijing’s surveillance and interference of foreign media at the Games was so severe that some journalists resolved to use “burner” phones and laptops that they could throw away upon finishing their coverage, to thwart any efforts to use tracking software that would enable the regime to monitor the devices’ contents.

It has been common for security and propaganda officials to follow, harass, and manhandle reporters trying to report outside Olympic venues, the FCCC stated. As an example, the FCCC cites the internationally criticized incident on the night of the opening ceremony, in which a guard wearing a red armband accosted and pushed Dutch television journalist Sjoerd den Dass during his report for broadcaster NOS on a busy street near the stadium. The FCCC noted that den Dass was standing in a spot to which the police had directed him only minutes earlier.

The mishandling of den Dass is far from the only incident to have sparked concern. The FCCC cited further incidents including security officers physically preventing reporters from interviewing local residents near the Olympic skiing venue, and police intervening to prevent a crew from the French news agency AFP from filming the opening ceremony from a private apartment 1.2 miles from the Bird’s Nest stadium and not within the official cordoned-off area.

In addition to those instances of physical harassment and interference with the work of international journalists, the FCCC expressed concern about restrictions issued by Chinese officials, who told journalists that all reporting in public areas required approval in advance from authorities.

“Security officials in Beijing seemed particularly sensitive about reporters filming anything Olympic-related,” the organization’s statement continues, citing the blocking of a reporter from a U.S. news outlet from interviewing people about the Olympic mascot outside an official merchandise store, and officials telling the reporter to get in touch with the foreign ministry to pursue an interview.

Officials also told a journalist that she didn’t have permission to film the Olympic logo.

In addition, a number of journalists have become the target of online harassment campaigns arising from their coverage of the Games. Chinese state media and unnamed diplomats drove some of these attacks, the FCCC said.

“The FCCC urges Chinese authorities to uphold their own stated rules on accredited foreign press in China: namely, to allow journalists to book and conduct their own interviews without the threat of state interference and to report freely in public areas,” the statement reads.

“Unfortunately, neither rule was enforced, at a time when global attention was trained on China more than ever.”


China Reporter

Follow

Michael Washburn is a New York-based reporter who covers China-related topics. He has a background in legal and financial journalism, and also writes about arts and culture. Additionally, he is the host of the weekly podcast Reading the Globe. His books include “The Uprooted and Other Stories,” “When We're Grownups,” and “Stranger, Stranger.”