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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Olympic Legacy: Free Reporting?

October 17, 2008

Liberalized rules for foreign reporters covering China for the
Olympics expire on Friday. Will Beijing make those regulations permanent?
Geoffrey A. Fowler
The Wall Street Journal
October 16, 2008

The Olympic regulations stipulated that foreign reporters could
interview any consenting person and travel around the country without
special approval. Previously, reporters were technically required to
seek permission from local governments whenever they traveled beyond
their home base.

Journalists at a press conference in Beijing in August. (Photo by
Geoffrey A. Fowler)

Chinese and Olympic officials have long suggested that greater press
freedoms might be one of the Games' legacies in China. Asked about
the status of the regulations on Oct. 7, Foreign Ministry spokesman
Qin Gang said "China's principle of opening up stays unchanged [after
the Olympics]. … Foreign media and journalists are welcome to report
in China as always."

On Sunday, Kyodo News cited an unnamed source saying that the rules
would be extended.

Press freedom and human rights groups have called for China to keep
the liberalized regulations in place, and even extend them. "While
there were serious problems in implementing Olympics-related media
freedom regulations, they did mark a new and much higher standard in
Chinese law for reporting freedom," said Sophie Richardson, Asia
advocacy director at Human Rights Watch in a statement.

Whether the rules actually made much of a difference during the
Olympics is open to debate. China heavily restricted access to Tibet
in the spring, even though the Olympic reporting rules were
technically in effect.

And perhaps most significantly, the rules never applied to Chinese
journalists, whose work is liable to censorship by the state and who
sometimes face retribution for exposing corruption.
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