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Chinese journalists censored

August 14, 2008

Jacquelin Magnay in Beijing
The Sydney Morning Herald
August 12, 2008

CHINESE journalists have been prevented from reporting the stabbing
murder of an American tourist at the Drum Tower and linking it to the
Olympic Games.

In direct contravention of the promises made for press freedom in
covering the Olympics, the notebooks and at least one tape recorder
of a number of Chinese journalists were confiscated after a press
conference held by the US men's volleyball team.

The team had been discussing the impact of the murder on them. The
victim was the father-in-law of the team's coach, Hugh McCutcheon,
and the father of a respected former national team member, Elisabeth

The confiscation caused disquiet and it was unclear if the items
would be returned.

Removal of such items is common for Chinese journalists covering
protests or other "undesirable" activities but it is the first time
it has happened at an Olympics.

Earlier, at a small protest in Tiananmen Square by pro-Tibet American
Christians, reporters were manhandled by police who tried to take
away their microphones and notebooks.

A Beijing Olympic spokesman, Sun Weide, said he did not know about
the notebooks being confiscated at the press conference nor about the
differing standards being applied to Western and Chinese journalists.
"I am not very clear about the situation you raised. For Chinese
journalists they very much enjoy the rights to cover the Beijing
Olympic Games."

A public relations firm acting for the organisers said initial
inquiries into the volleyball conference indicated the confiscation
"simply did not take place".

Local coverage of the murder has centred on the death of "an American
tourist" without mentioning that the victim, Todd Bachman, and his
seriously injured wife, Barbara, were there to support the US volleyball team.

A Herald internet report yesterday quoting the Australian chef de
mission, John Coates, ordering Australian athletes to wear team gear
away from the site to distinguish them from American contestants was
blocked until an international wire service released the story.
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