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German Journalists Demand Free Access During Beijing Olympics

DW staff (win)July 11, 2008

Germany's journalist union and the German chapter of Reporters Without Borders have called on China to stick to its own rules regarding press freedom during the Olympic Games, which are due to open in Beijing next month.

Demonstrators holding posters with the Olympic rings depicted as handcuffs
Reporters Without Borders have long criticized the press situation in ChinaImage: AP

The head of the German Union of Journalists (DJV), Michael Konken, on Friday, July 11, said that Chinese officials should grant journalists free access to cover the games.

"We call on the Chinese authorities to honor the rules for foreign journalists in China," he said, referring to directives issued by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in December 2006 that were meant to make it easier for reporters to work in the country during the Olympics.

The directives call for journalists to only need to get the permission of organizations or individuals they want to interview, but not state authorities. Konken said that officials had begun to prohibit interviews or threaten Chinese interview partners.

Konken welcomed an official Chinese apology for a botched live broadcast of German public broadcaster ZDF from the Great Wall. Officials had blocked the broadcast by holding their hands in front of the cameras.

The German chapter of Reporters Without Borders (ROG) also criticized new limitations on the work of journalists and welcomed a resolution passed by the European Parliament which stated that China had advanced economically, but was lagging behind as far as democratic reforms and human rights were concerned.

ROG pointed out that some 80 journalists were still imprisoned because of their work and that censorship of media was still a big problem.