Tuesday, September 05, 2006

British minister to raise press freedom with Beijing

By Nick Mulvenney
Monday, September 4, 2006; 8:13 AM

BEIJING (Reuters) - Britain's Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell said on Monday she would raise the issue of press freedom in a meeting with Beijing Olympic organizers (BOCOG) this week.

Jowell, who is responsible for her government's media and sports portfolios as well as the 2012 London Olympics, said reports of harassment of journalists in China were "matters of concern."

"I will be talking about press freedom with organizers tomorrow," she told reporters at the site of the main stadium of the 2008 Olympics.

"I think what is to be welcomed is that I understand BOCOG have made it clear that access will be granted to accredited and non-accredited journalists.

"This is an important step in the commitment the organizing committee gave the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that hosting the Games would turn China to face the rest of the world.

"These kinds of basic freedoms are freedoms the rest of the world in some cases take for granted and in others aspires to."

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Paris-based Reporters Without Borders and the Foreign Correspondents' Club of China have all complained this year about China's treatment of the media.

Around 20,000 media accredited by the IOC to cover the Games will descend on Beijing for the 2008 Olympics with thousands more coming to report from China without access to the venues.

BOCOG have repeatedly said that all media would be able to operate in the same way they had at previous Games and where Chinese norms differed from international norms, international norms would prevail.


BOCOG chief Liu Qi said last month that China would issue and implement regulations for foreign media reporting on the 2008 Olympics next year.

Jowell said the main reason for her trip was to forge a close link between the Games organizing committees of the two cities.

"I am here in order to find out what we can learn," she said.

"We want to look at what we can offer from previous experience and to make sure the great strengths and obvious expertise which has been applied by the Beijing Games is transferred to the London Games."

Jowell said two things that had already struck here were that Beijing was so clearly on track to have the venues constructed well in time for the Games and the way the Olympic legacy was being spread all over the country.

A visit to an Olympic education model primary school in the Haidian district of Beijing had also provided inspiration.

"They're obviously just so proud of the huge honor that has been bestowed on their city," she said.

"This isn't a specialist sports college, this is a fairly ordinary school which has embraced the Olympic ideals of friendship and cooperation.

"That is one of the lessons I'll take home with me...I think this is a way of further building a legacy in children who are not that interested in sport."



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