Rightist's group pressure IOC on media freedom

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Beijing, Nov 6: The International Olympic Committee must pressure China to ease restrictions on media freedoms ahead of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Human Rights Watch said today.

China was not making good on its promises to allow greater freedoms to report for foreign journalists, the New York-based group said, adding that the IOC should use China's ''Journalists' Day'' on Thursday to speak up.

''The IOC's reluctance to challenge the Chinese government's ongoing violations of media freedoms is at odds with the Olympic Charter's dedication to 'ethical principles' and 'preservation of human dignity','' Sophie Richardson, the group's deputy Asia director, said in a statement.

China relaxed rules governing foreign reporters at the start of the year meaning now, in theory, they are allowed to report across most of the country without seeking prior permission.

But the relaxed rules will expire after the Games, and they do not extend to Chinese reporters, or to the local assistants, researchers and translators who work with foreign media.

''All these journalists remain vulnerable to reprisals from state security authorities for pursuing stories that run counter to official propaganda dictates on what constitutes acceptable news,'' the group said.

The new restrictions were also not being adhered to, Human Rights Watch said.

It cited three instances in the past month in which foreign journalists were harassed by police or guards while they were trying to cover stories in Beijing and the neighbouring province of Hebei.

''Unfortunately, there have been many other similar violations of media freedom since the regulations came into effect,'' the group said.

UNI

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