NPR logo Covering The Olympics

Covering The Olympics

Seven years ago, when it was bidding for the Olympic Games, China promised that journalists would have unfettered freedom to report during the event. That pledge, it seems, no longer stands.

Reporters in the Olympic Village say they're unable to access certain web sites. Namely those with information on the Taiwanese independence movement, Tibet, and Falun Gong. They can't navigate to or Radio Free Asia, either.

The International Olympic Committee sent us this statement:

The IOC has always encouraged the Beijing 2008 organisers to provide media with the fullest access possible to report on the Olympic Games, including access to the internet. BOCOG [Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad] has said 'sufficient and convenient' internet access will be provided for the media to cover the Games. Today we learned there are issues accessing some websites. Therefore we are talking with the organisers to understand exactly the situation is and to see what may need to be rectified.

During the second hour, we'll talk to a handful of reporters and editors, charged with covering the Games in Beijing. How much freedom will they really have? How much of their coverage will they devote to foreign policy, human rights, and protests?

We'll speak with Anthony Kuhn, NPR's estimable Beijing correspondent, who kindly agreed to wake up at 3:00 a.m. (Beijing), to go to our bureau; Jonathan Paterson, an assignment editor at the BBC, responsible for planning the organization's coverage of the Games; and Terry McDonell, the managing editor of Sports Illustrated.

Come August 8th, when the Olympics begin, what do you want to read, hear, and see? Are you principally interested in the events, or do you want stories about the political climate in China?



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Wasn't it obvious when China said they would allow completely free reporting that they were lying? Haven't they consistently gone back on similar commitments to freedom in the past? If the world media honestly believed that hosting the olympics would suddenly magically make China a free press state, then the Chinese Government got exactly what they wanted out of their bid for the games.

Sent by Alex from Tallahassee | 3:13 PM | 7-30-2008

I feel that China is being given special treatment inspite of its human rights abuse and suppression of Tibetans etc. It's not normal for a host country to block websites that help journalists cover the stories outside of just olympics. I always look forward to those stories every Olympics. The fact that IOC members made "deals" with some Chinese officials smells bad to me...why give such special treament to them always and let them get away with every thing while US is preaching about democracy to Iraq, Cuba and other countries???

Sent by rk | 3:13 PM | 7-30-2008

Thank goodness for BBC coverage. I hope much of it is available online. Here in the states, we're stuck with hardly any live coverage and what NBC will focus on is swimming, diving and bloody gymnastics (NOT A SPORT)! I want track and field and more track. And in case I haven't mentioned it, TRACK! I don't care about the little vignettes that the network does on the athletes. Sure give me their stories, but don't make 'em so long. And how 'bout putting TRACK on in prime time for a change? It makes me want to get all my coverage online and just skip the television entirely.
Of course you should cover the other issues regarding China (protests). But as far as programming of the games, focus on the sports and the efforts of the athletes.
I want to know about Team Darfur. I want to know everything China does to hinder your coverage. I also want to know what the IOC DOESN'T do to help alleviate your problems.
This is the Olympics, not China's opportunity to whitewash its past.

Sent by Frank Field | 3:17 PM | 7-30-2008

It would be ideal to have a moratorium on pointed political broadcasts in conjunction with the Games broadcasts. I believe that the opportunity to compete in a non-politicized environment was the spirit in which nations have traditionally come together for the Games, and we should honor it during Olympic broadcasts, with the obvious exception of a protest or political event happening live within the venues. On the whole, I see it as a truce among nations for a few brief days every other year to honor the highest athletic achievements, and that's what we should focus on.

Sent by Marci Montgomery | 3:19 PM | 7-30-2008

I find it somewhat ironic that reporters are concerned, indeed NPR is concerned, about the coverage of protests in China, when they don't seem to care that protesters here, peaceful protesters, are relegated to free speech zones, and under covered in the press. I am sure there are American antiwar protesters listening who are amused, also.

Sent by Hannah Johns | 3:35 PM | 7-30-2008

I think it is pretty obvious that the media have a duty to report on the context in which the games are occurring as well as the games themselves. If injustices are occurring right outside the Olympic tent, it would be rather exploitative to ignore them and run off to catch the long jump, no? The glaring contradiction between the spirit of the games and the politics of the host country is The Story. I want to know what is going on that I can't see myself by watching the games on tv.

Sent by Stephanie | 7:47 PM | 7-30-2008

It's strange that western media never air interviews of Chinese abroad when talking about Chinese issues. Only Chinese people has the rights to judge their country for its human right policy. Is it difficult to find Chinese in the states? Of course that's not the reason. American media just don't want to show the truth. I am sure that my post has little chance to be posted.

When Western media blame China for lack of freedom, they never talked about their infamous faked news coverage about Tibet months ago.

There are tons of proof about how western media faked news to blash China.
If you really want to know the truth, just click:

Sent by Ximan Jiang | 2:31 AM | 7-31-2008

As a Chinese overseas, I fully support Tibetans struggling for their rights. It's not surprising that China communist party/government would not grant full information access -- how else could they control which information to feed to my countrymen?(That includes many Chinese here in this country who would cry foul of the western media, while Chinese media has blatantly served as the party's mouthpiece for almost 60 years, and that is not an issue to them?)

Sent by Shan Huang | 3:01 PM | 7-31-2008

To Shan Huang:
Did I mention that I trust Chinese media? Most of the Chinese overseas fully understood that Chinese media are not trustful. But this fact doesn't grant the right for western media to fake news report about Tibet!

All the Chinese are struggling for their rights. Western media showed no interest to the "6-28 incident" happened in GuiZhou province couple of weeks ago. The target of Tibet riot is Han civilian. Western media never showed any sympathy to the Han civilian Chinese that were burned to death by Tibetan riots. However, the target of "6-28 incident" was the local communist government. Which one is more morally rightful? Why western media show no interest to the later one? because they just want to get Tibet out of China, which better serves their political/military interest.

Sent by Ximan Jiang | 5:51 PM | 7-31-2008