Expat press harassed in China

Death threats, official detention hamper press freedom

BEIJING – Harassment of foreign journalists in China, including death threats and detention, continues just 100 days before the opening ceremonies for the 2008 Olympic Games, a report by the Foreign Correspondents Club of China said in the early hours Wednesday.

At least 10 Beijing-based journalists for foreign media outlets have received anonymous death threats, along with more than 50 incidents of interference with newsgathering activities in Tibetan areas, the FCCC statement on reporting conditions ahead of the Games, said.

With the Olympics just over three months away, sentiment in China has turned anti-foreign in the wake of disruptions of the Olympic torch relay and perceived slights due to erroneous or misleading foreign media reports about anti-Chinese protests in Tibet in March.

One Web site, anti-jialefu.cn, is a rallying point for boycotts of French retail chain Carrefour -- known as Jialefu in Mandarin Chinese -- which has outlets throughout China. The site's content is posted partly in retaliation for disruption of the torch relay's Paris leg.

Another web site, anti-CNN.com, analyzes Western media reports on the protests in Tibet, including disparaging remarks about China made by CNN commentator Jack Cafferty.

The FCCC did not name the reporters or news outlets that have received the threats.

Regulations went into effect in China in January giving foreign media greater freedom to report, including dropping restrictions on interviews with Chinese citizens and government officials. The looser regulations, which did not include freer access to Tibet itself, are due to expire October 17.

The FCCC called on the Chinese government to honor its pledge of press freedom before and during the Olympics, including full access to ethnic Tibetan areas.

The report also criticized the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games for its handling of pure sports reporting, such as access to athletes, training camps, and other facilities.

"There are an adequate number of press conferences, but no valuable information is given, ever," said Francesco Liello of La Gazzetta dello Sport in the report, the only reporter quoted by name.

About 20,000 journalists are expected in Beijing for the Games, based on those applying for media credentials. Thousands more unaccredited reporters and bloggers are also expected to descend on Beijing and other parts of China during the Games period.