Olympic Legacy: Free Reporting?
WSJ Blog: Liberalized rules for foreign reporters covering China for the Olympics expire on Friday. Will Beijing make those regulations permanent?
The Olympic regulations stipulated that foreign reporters could interview any consenting person and travel around the country without special approval. Previously, reporters were technically required to seek permission from local governments whenever they traveled beyond their home base.
Chinese and Olympic officials have long suggested that greater press freedoms might be one of the Games’ legacies in China. Asked about the status of the regulations on Oct. 7, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said “China’s principle of opening up stays unchanged [after the Olympics]. … Foreign media and journalists are welcome to report in China as always.”
On Sunday, Kyodo News cited an unnamed source saying that the rules would be extended.
Press freedom and human rights groups have called for China to keep the liberalized regulations in place, and even extend them. “While there were serious problems in implementing Olympics-related media freedom regulations, they did mark a new and much higher standard in Chinese law for reporting freedom,” said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch in a statement.
Whether the rules actually made much of a difference during the Olympics is open to debate. China heavily restricted access to Tibet in the spring, even though the Olympic reporting rules were technically in effect.And perhaps most significantly, the rules never applied to Chinese journalists, whose work is liable to censorship by the state and who sometimes face retribution for exposing corruption.