By Jacquelin Magnay
Beijing, August 12 - CHINESE journalists have been prevented from reporting the stabbing murder of an American tourist at the Drum Tower and linking it to the Olympic Games.
In direct contravention of the promises made for press freedom in covering the Olympics, the notebooks and at least one tape recorder of a number of Chinese journalists were confiscated after a press conference held by the US men's volleyball team.
The team had been discussing the impact of the murder on them. The victim was the father-in-law of the team's coach, Hugh McCutcheon, and the father of a respected former national team member, Elisabeth McCutcheon.
The confiscation caused disquiet and it was unclear if the items would be returned.
Removal of such items is common for Chinese journalists covering protests or other "undesirable" activities but it is the first time it has happened at an Olympics.
Earlier, at a small protest in Tiananmen Square by pro-Tibet American Christians, reporters were manhandled by police who tried to take away their microphones and notebooks.
A Beijing Olympic spokesman, Sun Weide, said he did not know about the notebooks being confiscated at the press conference nor about the differing standards being applied to Western and Chinese journalists. "I am not very clear about the situation you raised. For Chinese journalists they very much enjoy the rights to cover the Beijing Olympic Games."
A public relations firm acting for the organisers said initial inquiries into the volleyball conference indicated the confiscation "simply did not take place".
Local coverage of the murder has centred on the death of "an American tourist" without mentioning that the victim, Todd Bachman, and his seriously injured wife, Barbara, were there to support the US volleyball team.
A Herald internet report yesterday quoting the Australian chef de mission, John Coates, ordering Australian athletes to wear team gear away from the site to distinguish them from American contestants was blocked until an international wire service released the story.