WEF Welcome Olympic Comments on Human Rights

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The World Association of Newspapers and World Editors Forum today welcomed Olympic President Jacques Rogge’s call for China to respect its Olympic promise to improve human rights.

Mr Rogge said in Beijing on Thursday that Chinese officials had promised when bidding to host the 2008 Olympics that they would “advance the social agenda of China, including human rights.”

“This is what I would call a moral engagement rather than a juridical one,” he said. “We definitely ask China to respect this moral engagement.”

The Paris-based WAN and WEF, the global associations for the world’s press, wrote to Dr Rogge last week asking him to call on Chinese authorities to honour their Olympic pledges to respect the basic human right of freedom of expression and the right of journalists to cover events.

“We are delighted that the President of the International Olympic Committee has recognised that the Olympic movement itself will be tarnished if it allows the Chinese authorities to cynically abandon its pledges to improve human rights in the belief that nobody cares if it does so or not,” said Timothy Balding, CEO of WAN. “We would ask Dr Rogge to continue pressing the Chinese authorities to honour their human rights promises, to release all the journalists being held in its prisons, and to allow journalists freedom to report.”

China, the world’s largest jailer of journalists, has failed to honour the promises it made in its successful Olympic bid to “be open in every aspect to the rest of the country and the whole world. We will draw on the successful experience of others and follow the international standards and criteria.” More than 30 journalists and 50 cyber-dissidents are being held in Chinese prisons.

Authorities also promised foreign media “complete freedom to report when they come to China.”

Following the recent violence in Tibet, foreign journalists have been banned from Tibet and reporters there and across China have been arrested, harassed and had video recordings confiscated. Although the government introduced new regulations in 2007 to allow greater freedom of movement and access for foreign journalists who wished to travel in the country, these regulations have never been fully respected.

The letter to Dr Rogge can be found here.

The Paris-based WAN, the global organisation for the newspaper industry, defends and promotes press freedom and the professional and business interests of newspapers world-wide. Representing 18,000 newspapers, its membership includes 77 national newspaper associations, newspaper companies and individual newspaper executives in 102 countries, 12 news agencies and 11 regional and world-wide press groups.

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