Beijing: Concerns remain over the safety of reporters ahead of this summer’s Beijing Olympics, an international journalist rights group said Wednesday.
The Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists said it welcomes China’s willingness to have a dialogue on issues of press freedom but remains concerned over threats made to journalists for reporting on unrest in Tibet and disturbances during the Olympic torch relay.
“We are impressed by a new willingness to talk through our differences over press freedom and journalism, but the problems facing reporters on the ground cannot be ignored,” IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said at the end of a four-day visit to Beijing.
“In the last few weeks some journalists have been threatened and there has been an increase in violations of promises to let media work without interference,” he said. “It’s time to lower the temperature and start talking about making journalism safer and take reporters out of the political crossfire.”
White said he and other IFJ officials held meetings with Chinese government officials, the government-backed All China Journalists’ Association as well as the Beijing Olympic Committee.
About 30,000 officially accredited and non-accredited journalists are expected in Beijing for the Olympics.
Some journalists have been targeted in a recent campaign by some Chinese who have denounced Western media for alleged biased reporting on unrest in Tibet. They say news outlets have unjustly criticized Beijing in its crackdown, ignored the region’s history of feudalism under the Dalai Lama and its economic development under Communist rule.
Numerous Web postings, YouTube videos and Facebook groups have criticized the Tibet news coverage, including a Web site called anti-cnn.com which was set up to point out alleged media bias.
White said the group is planning follow-up actions to ensure journalists’ safety during the Olympics and to improve communication between Chinese journalists and their colleagues overseas.
He said the group aims to work with Chinese journalists to ensure that even after the Olympics in August, promises of press freedom will remain in place.
“We recognize and welcome steps taken to allow journalists to work freely, but this must not be a one-off Olympics gesture. China must deliver on its promises and open the door to a durable process of dialogue and co-operation among journalists,” White said.
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries.