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Zee News Online
01-08-07, 13:21
China not living up to media freedom pledge

Beijing, August 01: China has so far failed to live up to its pledge to ensure full media freedom ahead of the Beijing Olympics, with harassment of foreign reporters still common, according to a survey.

But despite the problems, the situation is better than before when the government relaxed reporting regulations on January 1 this year, the Foreign Correspondents Club of China said.

Of the 163 respondents to the survey, 95 per cent said they did not think reporting conditions in China met what they considered international standards.

China now allows foreign reporters to travel and report more freely across most of the country in the run-up to next August`s games but the relaxed rules will expire on October 17, 2008.

Foreign journalists had required government permission to report outside their home base -- usually Beijing or Shanghai -- but under the new rules they need only the agreement of the person they are interviewing.

’’We welcome the progress that has been made,`` the group`s President, Melinda Liu, said in a statement.

``However we urge the Chinese government to accelerate efforts to eliminate all media restrictions and to ensure appropriate implementation of policies. We`re especially concerned by many reports of intimidation of sources.

``A nation where citizens who speak to foreign correspondents face threats, reprisals and even bodily harm does not live up to the world`s expectations of an Olympic host,`` she added.

Problems include violence against foreign reporters covering protests, detention for unauthorised filming and being called into the foreign ministry for ``criticism`` of stories, the group said.

China`s own tightly controlled domestic media is not covered by the new rules.

Restrictions on travel to Tibet and the far western region of Xinjiang, where restless minority peoples chaff under Beijing`s choke, remain in place too.

``Among the problems they cited was insufficient access to government officials, particularly the nation`s top leadership,`` the group said.

China is expected to host some 20,000 Olympic-accredited and 10,000 non-accredited media during next year`s games.

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