Project report: Beijing must open door to media freedom
A report issued by the International Federation of Journalists and the global sports communication group Play the Game recognises that the Chinese decision last month to extend free-range reporting rights to international media constitutes a welcomed progress. But the report adds that the country has much to do before it can claim to live up to international standards for a free press.
IFJ leaders meeting in Paris this month agreed to send a new international mission to China to continue a ground-breaking dialogue which they hope will lead to fresh action to improve the conditions for local journalists.
"The Games were spectacular but the glitz cannot hide the real problems that still exist for journalists and their sources," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "As this report shows the government must end harassment of media and open itself up to legitimate scrutiny by independent journalists."
The report, issued as part of the Play the Game for Open Journalism project, finds that the experience of journalists during the Beijing Olympics varied according to what aspect of the games they were reporting upon.
While most sports journalists were largely satisfied, many of those following events off the field of play had problems.
There were hundreds of violations of media freedom rules for foreign correspondents during the Olympics, including the roughing up of photographers, detention of journalists, intimidation of sources and blocked access to politically sensitive hotspots within China.
The report concludes that there are five areas where action is needed to make progress towards press freedom in China:
- Recent legislation allowing for freer working conditions for foreign journalists must also be extended to Chinese journalists, who still suffer from serious suppression.
- Restrictions on free coverage of certain subjects of vital importance to Chinese society, such as Falun Gong, Tibet, Xinjiang and Taiwan should be lifted.
- Sources must enjoy the same freedom as journalists to speak freely. Monitoring and targeting of sources is unacceptable and undermines press freedom.
- China must raise the level of media awareness and consciousness through campaigns and educational projects to ensure that local police and other authorities understand the rules covering media and are capable of implementing them.
- Finally, China faces a major cultural challenge -- to promote a debate about achieving its aims of a harmonious society while allowing for critical and independent journalism that will ensure society is fully informed of all points of view. The IFJ and Play the Game insist that these objectives are not contradictory.
Copies of the report can be downloaded from here