Worrying sign, say foreign journalists

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 July, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 July, 2008, 12:00am

Yesterday's scuffles between Beijing police and Hong Kong media may be a worrying sign of things to come, foreign journalists said last night.

Video clips of hot and bothered police officers grappling with a small number of Hong Kong journalists were seen around the world.

'Seeing a journalist being punched while doing his job is quite scary and shows the organisers are not prepared, and we can expect more clashes,' said Vincent Brossel, of the international press freedom group Reporters Without Borders.

'The International Olympic Committee must take responsibility for this because it has had seven years to address this serious issue of media freedom during their Olympics.'

New laws governing freedoms for overseas media came into effect last year under China's Olympic pledge. The Foreign Correspondents' Club of China has, however, highlighted scores of incidents of the new laws being breached.

A spokesman for an international risk-assessment company representing several Olympic sponsors said clients would be warned of the security risk posed by the lack of control shown at yesterday's ticket sales.

'The scenes raise the question of what will happen if there is an evacuation of a stadium or subway line during the Games,' he said. 'We will advise our clients that Chinese security authorities pose a risk because they are not properly trained to control such situations.'

Sun Weide , a spokesman for the Games' organising committee, blamed journalists for 'failing to obey the rules'.

Kevan Gosper, chairman of the IOC's Press Commission, said the situation with the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games could worsen if it felt special reporting measures were being compromised.

But he said he believed the Olympic hosts were doing their best to facilitate the 21,000 international journalists expected in the next two weeks.

'Bocog and the Chinese would be just as concerned if they believe they have been in breach of the new reporting [measures] as we would be if reporters are unable to do their job,' he said. 'If this is the case, we will bring it to the attention of the Beijing authorities immediately.'