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IOC: China should not prevent media from reporting
AP[Thursday, August 14, 2008 15:34]
BEIJING, August 14 - The International Olympic Committee said Thursday it frowned on the actions of Chinese security officials who allegedly manhandled a British journalist as he tried to report on a pro-Tibet protest in a Beijing park.

IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies said journalists should not be prevented from doing their jobs, a day after John Ray of London-based ITV News said he was wrestled to the ground and briefly held by police who apparently mistook him for a protester.

"The IOC does disapprove of any attempts to hinder a journalist who is going about doing his job seemingly within the rules and regulations," Davies told a daily press briefing. "This, we hope, has been addressed. We don't want to see this happening again."

The incident was the latest in a string of confrontations between Chinese authorities and international journalists, raising concerns that Beijing was not fulfilling its pledge to give foreign media unrestricted access during the games.

Asked repeatedly if IOC officials are embarrassed that China was not living up to its promises, Davies would only say they are happy with the way China is running the sporting events.

Ray, 44, said police stopped him as he rushed to the Chinese Ethnic Culture Park, south of the main Olympic stadium, where a protest was being held.

A small struggle ensued, Ray said, in which he was forced to the floor, dragged and "manhandled" before he was able to show his Olympic press credentials and was released. An official from the Beijing Public Security Bureau said officers mistook him for an activist.

Police also detained the protesters — seven Americans and a half-Tibetan woman with Japanese citizenship — all of whom have been deported, according to Students for a Free Tibet, the group that organized the action.

Five of the activists blocked the park entrance, while the others unfurled a "Free Tibet" banner on a park bridge.

It was the largest in a string of brief protests in Beijing, most involving fewer than five protesters, since the games began last week.

The Beijing Olympics organizing committee BOCOG defended China's policy on demonstrations, saying China respected free speech and had set up designated protest zones away from the sports venues.

In July, China said protests would be allowed during the Olympics in three parks far away from the main venues. But applications for protests must be made five days in advance, with a response promised 48 hours before the requested rally time.

"The three parks being opened is based on the constitution of China that people are allowed to demonstrate if they have some issues," Wang Wei, BOCOG'S executive vice president, told the IOC briefing. "I think that's one step further for China to open up and I think it's very good gesture."

However, he said he had no information on the number of protest permits that have been granted. No demonstrations have been reported in the zones, and Human Rights Watch said in a statement Wednesday that Chinese activist Ji Sizun was taken away by security agents after applying to protest against official corruption.

The statement was issued the same day that the Chinese Foreign Ministry's spokesman said a reporter who suggested that Chinese petitioners were placed under house arrest or were otherwise forcibly prevented from holding protests during the Olympics held "misunderstandings" about China.

"In China, nobody will be persecuted or placed under house arrest because of their speech, only those who break laws will be punished in accordance with the law," Qin Gang told a regular briefing. "Chinese citizens, in accordance with the law, enjoy the freedom of speech and other kinds of rights and freedoms."

Mi Jinli, husband of a housing activist, said Thursday he was still not allowed to see his wife, Zhang Wei, who was taken from her home last week after trying to apply for permission to protest. Zhang is being officially detained for a month for "disturbing social order," Mi said.

Associated Press sports writer Stephen Wade contributed to this report.
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another fake promise, not surprising (ttronan)
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