FCCC statement on Olympics reporting

Feb 21, 2022

February 21, 2022

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC) is dismayed that the conditions for independent reporting in China continue to fall short of international standards during the Winter Olympic Games.

After an Olympic ski event, a foreign reporter was prevented by a Beijing Olympic official from interviewing a Hong Kong athlete in the Games’ mixed zone, a space supposedly governed by international Olympic rules. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) later called the incident “an isolated” case.

However, government interference occurred regularly during the Games, a symptom of the challenging operating environment for foreign media in China.

When reporters attempted to report outside Olympic venues, they were frequently tailed and manhandled by propaganda and security officials. Most visibly, a reporter with Dutch public broadcaster NOS was hauled off camera during a live TV broadcast by plainclothes security men, despite the fact that he had been standing in a spot police directed him to only minutes early. Near the Olympic skiing venue, security officers stepped in to stop interviews between local residents and reporters. In one case, French news agency AFP was even prevented by police from filming the Opening Ceremony from a private apartment two kilometers from the Bird’s Nest stadium – and outside the official cordoned-off zone.

Numerous reporters were told that all reporting in public areas must first be approved by Chinese authorities. Security officers in Beijing seemed particularly sensitive about reporters filming anything Olympic-related. For example, a reporter with a US outlet was prevented from conducting interviews about the Olympic mascot outside an official Olympic merchandise store and told to contact the Foreign Ministry for any interviews. In another case, a journalist was told by police that she was not permitted to even film the Olympic logo.

Several journalists were also targeted by online harassment campaigns in response to Olympic-related stories they wrote. In some cases, these attacks were fueled by Chinese state media accounts and Chinese diplomats.

The FCCC is disappointed that China has tightened conditions for the press, contrary to the Olympic spirit. For more information on general reporting conditions in China, please refer to our 2021 working conditions report.

The FCCC urges the Chinese authorities to uphold their own stated rules on accredited foreign press in China: namely, to allow journalists to book and conduct their own interviews without threat of state interference and to report freely in public areas. Unfortunately, neither rule was enforced, at a time when global attention was trained on China more than ever.