Beijing Winter Olympics committee denies blocking foreign media

Correspondents’ club said organisers were harassing journalists but Beijing says it ‘guarantees freedom of reporters’

Beijing’s Winter Olympics organising committee has rejected accusations that journalists have been blocked in their attempts to cover preparations for the Games.

Earlier this month the Foreign Correspondents Club of China (FCCC) accused the Chinese authorities of “continuously stymying” attempts by foreign media to cover the Winter Olympics due to begin near the Chinese capital in February.

In a scathing statement, the FCCC alleged a pattern of authorities denying or ignoring requests for access, and following, harassing and abusing journalists. It contained several accounts of specific instances from foreign journalists, including the verbal abuse and freezing-out of a journalist who mentioned human rights boycotts in a report.

“Our members’ repeated inquiries towards the Beijing Winter Olympics organising committee [Bocog] on how international media can report on the Games have been met with conflicting answers or neglected completely,” the FCCC said.

“FCCC members report spending weeks trying to obtain contact details for Bocog media facilitators, only to receive dismissive or inaccurate information from them.”

In response the Bocog said China “has never recognised the organisation”.

“What this organisation said is inconsistent with the facts and cannot represent the true voice of foreign journalists in China,” it told the Guardian in a lengthy statement.

The Bocog said it “guaranteed the freedom of reporting” by international media on the Games, in accordance with “relevant Chinese policies” and on the proviso journalists abided by “relevant Chinese laws, regulations and anti-epidemic policies”.

However the statement also made several pledges which appeared to answer calls made by the FCCC, including for a dedicated media liaison desk during the Games, and for foreign media to be invited to domestic press events. It said depending on the epidemic situation there would be three press conferences for foreign media organised with the speed skating stadium, Olympic village, and sports centre.

“As the competition unfolds, we will also increase the registration quota of foreign media in the test competition,” it said.

The statement said BOCOG had “always welcomed” media attention and reports from foreign journalists on the Games preparations, had always provided good services, and denied there was “so-called ‘inadequate information disclosure’”. As part of its defence it noted the delivery of 28 issues of an Olympics newsletter to 183 media outlets.

It did not refer to calls by the FCCC to approve long-stalled visas of foreign journalists, after dozens were expelled in 2020.


Helen Davidson in Taipei

The GuardianTramp

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