BEIJING, Aug 7: A Western rights group lashed out at China's lack of media freedom and jailing of journalists on Tuesday, the latest to criticise Beijing in the run-up to the 2008 Olympics.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said China was falling short of its promise to protect press freedom before and during the Olympics, echoing complaints by Reporters Without Borders and Amnesty International a day earlier.
"China's poor press freedom landscape could hinder visiting reporters covering the Games and may have a lasting negative effect on local journalists once the international spotlight has faded," the group said in a statement.
Committee Chairman Paul Steiger said in the statement that China was holding at least 29 reporters and editors behind bars because of their work.
"Unless things change, and soon, reporters who venture beyond the Olympic village should be prepared to work in an environment where official interference and detentions of journalists are common and sources are at risk."
China said on Monday preparations for the Olympics, which begin a year on Wednesday, were on track, shrugging off concerns about media freedom, food safety and pollution.
But at the Reporters Without Borders news conference in Beijing calling for greater media freedom, several journalists were kept from leaving for up to two hours with no explanation.
Reporters Without Borders said China had made specific promises when it was awarded the Games that it would improve press freedom and human rights.
"They made very concrete promises, but unfortunately, six years after, we have the impression that there are no real changes," group Secretary-General Robert Menard told reporters, urging China to release all political prisoners.
Amnesty said China has not made nearly enough progress on human rights.
"When the Chinese authorities made a bid for the Olympics, and then won the bid, they made a promise that the Olympics would also be an opportunity for them to develop human rights," Irene Khan, secretary-general of the leading human rights group, told Reuters on Monday.
"With a year to go, we still see human rights concerns overshadowing preparations."