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Russia: Reporters' guide on human rights and Sochi Olympics

A volunteer shows a journalist the facilities of the Olympic stadium
A volunteer shows a journalist the facilities of the Olympic stadium "Fisht" during an organized tour of the construction sites for the Olympic venues in Sochi, 10 February 2012.

REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

A reporters' guide published today by Human Rights Watch summarizes key human rights concerns surrounding the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. The guide, prepared for journalists covering the games, outlines human rights problems directly relating to the preparations for the games and the human rights context more broadly in Russia.

The guide also details how the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has – and could further – address these problems and the role the IOC plays in ensuring that Olympics host countries uphold the principles outlined in the Olympic Charter.

“Thousands of journalists will attend the Olympics in Sochi to report on athletic achievement to millions of sports fans across the globe,” said Jane Buchanan, Europe and Central Asia associate director at Human Rights Watch. “However, these games have been undermined by profound violations of basic rights, including press freedom, and that is a story the world should know too.”

  • Human Rights Watch’s research related to preparations for the games include:
  • Exploitation of workers, including migrant workers, building Olympics venues and infrastructure in Sochi;
  • Evictions of homeowners and their families without fair compensation;
  • Governmental harassment of journalists, environmental activists, and other outspoken critics of concerns related to the games;
  • Negative impacts on the environment that are affecting rights to property and to health;
  • The Russian parliament’s adoption in June of an anti-gay “propaganda” law that contradicts the Olympic Charter’s non-discrimination clause; and
  • Accessibility for people with disabilities in Sochi, the host for the XI Paralympic Games in March 2014.

The reporters' guide flags such issues as: the unprecedented crackdown on independent groups and on freedom of expression; xenophobic violence as well as ethnic profiling and arbitrary detention of migrants by police; and an ongoing Islamic insurgency in the North Caucasus with continued abuses by insurgents and government counterinsurgency efforts.

The guide also summarizes the role the IOC should take in holding host countries responsible when human rights abuses occur in conjunction with the games. Human Rights Watch has regularly shared information and evidence of human rights abuses related to preparations for the Sochi Olympics with the IOC since 2008.

“The Sochi Games have thrown a spotlight on the human rights situation more broadly in Russia,” Buchanan said. “We hope that this guide will encourage journalists to report on the abuses that continue to mar the spirit of Olympism.”

Click here to read the “Reporters' Guide to Covering the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.”

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