Beijing Olympics Blocking Foreign Media Coverage, Group Says
(Bloomberg) -- China’s foreign press corps urged the International Olympic Committee for greater access to the Beijing Winter Games, complaining that organizers have “continuously stymied” them from covering preparations for the event.
Foreign media staff have over the past year been excluded from news conferences, venue visits and other routine events that were open to domestic media, the Foreign Correspondents Club of China said in a statement Tuesday. Journalists have been denied access for numerous reasons, including venue capacity, Covid-protocols and security concerns, the group said.
“There is still tremendous uncertainty over how and if foreign correspondents will be able to cover the Games,” the FCCC wrote in a statement.
The behavior failed to uphold IOC charter provisions requiring the body to “ensure the fullest coverage by the different media and the widest possible audience in the world” as well as China’s own pledge to give media the freedom to report the games and their preparations, the group said.
Covid restrictions had made it necessary to limit access at testing sites to a small media pool, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a regular press briefing in Beijing on Tuesday, noting that organizers planned to invite more media to future events. He dismissed the FCCC’s claims of insufficient information, adding that the ministry didn’t believe the group represented foreign reporters in China.
The Beijing Organizing Committee and IOC didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment about the statement.
The FCCC statement is the latest sign of tensions between China and the global community over the international sporting event, slated to begin in little more than three months. Unlike when China welcomed a flood of overseas visitors before the Beijing Summer Olympics in 2008, the Winter Games have been marked by closed borders and calls for boycotts over the country’s human rights practices in places including Xinjiang.
The Beijing Organizing Committee previously said it would establish “bubbles” for foreign media to minimize the risks of a Covid outbreak, without clarifying whether reporters would be required to quarantine and prevented from reporting outside of the venue. Several foreign correspondents have been expelled or forced to leave China since early 2020, in response to coverage and a broader dispute between Washington and Beijing over journalist visas.
The FCCC included in its statements several anonymous comments from reporters who said they were ignored by organizers or harassed by police when attempting to cover events. The sensitivity to foreign scrutiny raises questions about how China will handle political statements by athletes, which have been permitted under a new IOC policy.
“This is a stark contrast to the coverage which was possible during the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics and deprives the world of informative coverage from across China,” the FCCC said.
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