US State Department Urges Safe, Free Reporting During Beijing Winter Olympics

  • Asia

State Department spokesman Ned Price speaks ahead of an address by Secretary of State Antony Blinken during the release of the "2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices," at the State Department in Washington on March 30, 2021. (Mandel Ngan/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

United States urged China to grant media freedom at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, starting in three months, a State Department spokesperson said Nov. 4.

“We urge PRC officials not to limit freedom of movement and access for journalists and to ensure that they remain safe and able to report freely, including at the Olympic and the Paralympic Games,” spokesperson Ned Price told a regular press briefing.

Price refrained from commenting on calls to boycott the Games over human rights concerns which he briefly outlined.

“We have been crystal clear about where we stand on what is transpiring in Xinjiang and the human rights abuses that have and that are taking place within the PRC,” he said.

Rights groups and some U.S. lawmakers have urged a boycott of Beijing 2022 over human rights abuses in China targeting minorities as well as crackdowns on civil activists.

Beijing scrubs such accusations from state media platforms while it forbids western reporters from accessing the country and stopping any reporting on the regime’s treatment of minorities particularly Uyghur Muslims in northwest Xinjiang.

Price commented about media freedoms in China following a question about a statement issued by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC) which outlined difficulties faced by foreign journalists wanting to cover the upcoming Games.

“ FCCC is concerned about the lack of transparency and clarity from the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG) as well as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) with regards to Olympic-related reporting in China,” the club said in a Twitter thread.

“Over the last year, the foreign press corps has been continuously stymied in its coverage of Winter Olympic Games preparations, denied attendance at routine events, and prevented from visiting sports venues in China,” it said.

“Our members’ repeated inquiries towards BOCOG on how international media can report on the Games have been met with conflicting answers or neglected completely.”

In March, a spokesman of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs failed to provide specifics about its promise to allow complete media freedom for the 2022 Games during a regular press briefing.

In its annual report, the FCCC said China used coronavirus prevention measures, intimidation, and visa curbs to limit foreign reporting in 2020, ushering in a “rapid decline in media freedom.”

For the third year in a row, no journalists told the group that working conditions have improved, said the report released in March.

In July, China’s state-run media promoted harsh rhetoric towards the U.S. and other foreign reporters, who covered record flooding in central China that displaced over a million people. Regime-driven public anger saw media workers from the likes of the BBC and Los Angeles Pezou receive death threats.

“ PRC government claims to welcome foreign media and support their work, but its actions tell a different story,” Price said in a previous statement in July.

Reuters contributed to this report. 

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