"Are you arresting me? I am a journalist," said John Ray, of London-based ITV News, as he was arrested by the Chinese police. The pernicious crime perpetrated by John Ray was covering a protest outside the National Stadium. "They bundled me out of the park," Ray was quoted as saying by the Associated Press. "They forced me to the floor, dragged me, manhandled me into a restaurant next door." Ray was covering the action of eight activists, seven from the US, who unveiled a "Free Tibet" flag near the National Stadium in Beijing.
Video of Ray’s arrest with his narration below:
Police said that they confused Ray with a protester, despite his presspass and loud protestations. Ray’s arrest earned a mild rebuke from theIOC who said, "The IOC does disapprove of any attempts to hinder ajournalist who is going about or doing his job seemingly within therules and regulation." It’s those very "rules and regulations" that arepart of the problem. The IOC issued firm statements that freedom of thepress would be respected during the games. China has also insisted that, "there will be no restrictions on journalists in reporting on the Olympic Games."
But foreign journalists have issued reports about everything fromrestricted internet access to restricted movement. They also report ofbeing photographed by police officers while they interview athletes. Yet it’s been a cakewalk compared to reporters who are from Chinaitself. Chinese reporters had notebooks and tape recorders confiscatedafter they interviewed Olympic athletes following the stabbing deathof Todd Bachman, father in law of US men’s volleyball coach HughMcCutcheon. Bob Dietz, the Asia Program Coordinator for theCommittee to Project Journalists wrote, "Chinese reporters recently [reported] of a 21-point directive that came down last month from the Central Propaganda Department. Taboo subjects include everything from seating arrangements for dignitaries at the opening ceremonies, food safety issues, and an outright ban on using any source of information other than the official Xinhua News Agency for Games-related scandals. The standard rules for referring to Taiwan (the acceptable form is"Chinese Taipei" not the Republic of China (Taiwan) were also on thelist, but no mainland Chinese reporter really needs to be reminded ofthat."
Although China has a very authoritarian state run media system, I dowonder if the US has much of a platform to stand upon. NBC has thus fartreated the games with the political depth of an old Hope-Crosbyroad picture. They might as well call their coverage, Costas Goes to China. Since General Electric is a key sponsor of the games and the owner of NBC, this doesn’t come as much of a surprise. But our cynicism shouldn’t stop us from criticizing the way the IOC and China–with full support from America’s corporate leaders–lied to the world about the way these Olympics would be conducted.