Keeping a lid on bad news

Chinese authorities maintain tight control on coverage of Olympic news.

Foreign journalists have faced a series of hurdles reporting news surrounding the games [AFP]
Foreign journalists have faced a series of hurdles reporting news surrounding the games [AFP]

With an estimated 10-15,000 foreign journalists in Beijing for the games, the protests and the response of the Chinese security forces have been given prominent coverage in the international media.

The Chinese media, meanwhile, only briefly mentioned them after the activists were deported.

That is because rule Number 7 of special Olympic reporting rules for Chinese media blanks out coverage of any pro-Tibetan independence movement.

Protests by Tibet activists have been quickly squashed by police [EPA]

There are a total of 21 Olympic coverage rules for domestic media outlets to follow, carefully drawn up by the Chinese government’s propaganda department.

No comment is allowed on the Darfur question; the Myanmar issue must be handled with care; and reporters must also be careful when it comes to Cuba.

Remember the food safety scares earlier this year? That too is off-limits.

Another rule bars reporting from any of the three zones Beijing Olympic organisers set aside for protests.

Beijing’s announcement that it would allow such zones – seen at previous games – was seen at the time as something of a landmark concession by the Chinese government.

But with just a few days left for the games to run, the zones remain quiet.

Several groups have reportedly managed to dodge the bureaucratic obstacle course and file applications to use the protest zones, but none have been approved.

Olympic showpiece

China’s media has presented a tightly scripted view of the games [GALLO/GETTY]

Another reporting no-no has blanked out any negative coverage in domestic media about the showpiece Olympic opening ceremony.

On the story of the little girl from the show who lip synched the Ode to the Motherland, China’s state media merely quotes her as being proud of her participation.

Never mind the original singer who was deemed too ugly to appear before a global audience.

“Maybe the girl was too young,” one Chinese spectator told us outside the Bird’s Nest stadium.

“Maybe her voice couldn’t carry live, in that sort of performance. You need to maintain a level of quality to the show. If this report is true.”

Another man said he wouldn’t believe the story and asks who has been reporting this. When we tell him it has been widely reported in foreign media, he says he’d rather believe what the Chinese reporters tell him.


Only in cyberspace has the controversy become a hot debate, and even much of that has been removed by government censors.

The result is that the Chinese view of the games is carefully tailored and very different from what the rest of the world sees, while the thousands of foreign journalists covering the Olympics can’t always tell the stories they want.

There have been incidents of foreign reporters facing obstruction, harassment and even detention by Chinese authorities, despite assurances they would face complete freedom to report during the games.

The International Olympic Committee has faced a barrage of questions on the issue at its regular press conferences but has staunchly avoided comment, keen not to strain relations with its Chinese hosts.

China’s 21 media commandments have been set out for Chinese journalists to follow during the games, but it is clear that hurdles have also been set up for foreign journalists to jump over.

Source : Al Jazeera

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