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Cyber-dissident receives five-year sentence , Olympic Games organisers conducting ID checks on all accredited journalists

(RSF/IFEX) - The following is an abridged version of an open letter to Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee:

Mr. Jacques Rogge
President
International Olympic Committee
Lausanne, Switzerland

Paris, 29 November 2007

Dear Mr. Rogge,

We are receiving extremely disturbing reports from China about the way the authorities are preparing for the arrival of tens of thousands of journalists and media workers for the Beijing Olympic Games.

It is becoming clearer and clearer that the organisers of the Beijing Olympics and the Chinese security apparatus have decided to control journalists very closely before and during the games. The authorities said, for example, that they were planning to compile files on journalists and reserved the right to turn them back even if they were accredited by National Olympic Committees.

You must be aware that the games organisers announced that they were going to conduct ID checks on all accredited journalists. Yang Minghui, the deputy head of the games accreditation office, defended this decision as a security requirement, as if journalists could pose a threat or be potential terrorists. "If they do not pass the tests, their accreditation requests will be refused and the process will stop there," he said, adding that "the aim is to eliminate people who pose problems for the security of the games."

Other Olympic cities compiled files on journalists in the past, but this was for organisational purposes and never with the intention of refusing entry on grounds which - as everyone must realize in the case of Beijing - are political.

The announcement followed an earlier one by the General Administration of Press and Publications (GAPP) that it was going to compile files on the approximately 30,000 journalists coming to the games. A GAPP representative said the purpose was to identify "fake journalists" and to help Chinese officials respond to interview requests. But the government has not said what kind of information will be gathered.

In recent months, there have been several leaks in the media about the instructions given to the public security and state security departments as regards to identifying groups in China and abroad that are likely to want to demonstrate during the games. Journalists could also be targeted by this preventive surveillance and it is possible that hundreds of people will be banned from entering China.

Reporters Without Borders hailed the adoption of new rules for the foreign press last January. But, 11 months later, the results are negative. It is true that the foreign ministry has in some cases tried to help foreign journalists who had been detained or attacked, but we have registered more than 50 cases clearly showing that the authorities are not respecting the new rules.

(. . . )

Mr. Rogge, it is your silence that has unfortunately made all these abuses possible. We continue to think that the IOC should do everything it can to influence the policies of the Beijing games organisers towards Chinese and foreign journalists. A failure to rise to this key challenge would represent an enormous setback in the history of the Olympic movement.

I look forward to your reply.

Sincerely,

Robert Ménard
Secretary-General

The letter to Jacques Rogge is accessible at: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=24564

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