Olympics: FCCC cites attacks, harassment

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China just released its updated list of “cases of reporting interference.” What’s reporting interference? I’ll let the FCCC’s reporters speak for themselves:

Since the beginning of the Olympic period on July 25, the day the Main Press Center officially opened, the FCCC has received more than 30 confirmed cases of reporting interference. This includes 10 cases of violence, more than the total number confirmed in the whole of 2007, and 8 cases of damage to equipment or destruction of photos.

In addition, we are checking more than 20 cases reported in other media. The total number of reporting interference incidents between January 1 and August 20 is 152, just short of the figure for all of 2007.

“Reporting interference” includes violence, destruction of journalistic materials, detention, harassment of sources and staff, interception of communications, denial of access to public areas, being questioned in an intimidating manner by authorities, being reprimanded officially, being followed, and being subjected to other obstacles not in keeping with international practices. 

China has not kept the promise it made in 2001 when it was awarded the Games: “There will be no restrictions on journalists in reporting on the Olympic Games.” I was asked by a reporter in Beijing today if that promise really extended beyond the Games. They had no complaints about the access to the facilities or the competitors, but was having trouble on the streets. I said that promise was made in a broader context, and China understood that to be the case.

“We will give the media complete freedom to report when they come to China,” is the clarification that Wang Wei, a vice president of the Beijing organizing committee, made at a press conference on July 12, 2001, the day before the International Olympic Committee (IOC) named the city as host.

The problem the reporter was having: “I had the unsettling experience of learning that security officials were asking questions about me to my cellphone company after my number was found in the phone of a now-deported activist. I was told by colleagues of mine based here that that’s fairly common practice and was wondering what you thought about it.” I told her I agreed with her colleagues. It is a normal procedure, and China-based correspondents long ago learned to live with the assumption that their email and phone traffic are being monitored.

(Reporting from Hong Kong)