The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has responded to the incident that occurred last Friday, February 4th, when during a live broadcast at the Opening Ceremony a Dutch NOS-correspondent was brusquely pulled off-camera by a security guard. According to the IOC-spokesman, it was due to the guard’s overzealousness, NOS reports.
Sjoerd Den Daas and his camera operator remained free of injury, and were able to resume broadcasting shortly after the incident. The incident, however, quickly gained international traction and pointed a floodlight at China’s draconian approach to press freedom.
During a press briefing the next day, IOC-spokesman Mark Adams called it an “unfortunate incident” and said that “the reporter was soon able to go back to doing his job in front of the camera. Things like this happen sometimes. Hopefully this was a one-off. We assure you that within the ‘closed bubble,’ you can continue to do your job.” The “closed bubble” is part of an intricate system which entails severe restrictions on movement for visitors and athletes alike, and falls under China’s Zero COVID policy.
Most curious however was Mark Adams’ claim that he had been in contact with the Dutch NOS about the incident. The Dutch broadcast is “mystified” as to whom he contacted. “Neither NOS management, nor the News and Sports editors, nor the leadership of our Olympic team in Beijing, nor our correspondent himself spoke to anyone from the IOC about yesterday’s incident,” it said.
The reporter has also commented on being manhandled. He says such incidents are in fact a regular occurence.
In recent weeks we, just like several foreign colleagues, have been repeatedly obstructed or stopped by the police while reporting on subjects related to the games. Last night’s incident is not an isolated incident, but it rarely happens live on the broadcast.
Editor-in-chief of NOS News Marcel Gelauff confirmed the uptick in such cases: “Unfortunately, situations like this are increasingly becoming a daily reality for journalists in China,” he said on Saturday, calling it “a painful illustration of the state of press freedom in the country,” while adding that “you don’t touch journalists.” NOS has asked Chinese authorities and the IOC to create conditions in which domestic and foreign journalists can freely report on the Olympic Games in safety.
According to the latest Media Freedoms report by the The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC), foreign journalists operating in China are facing “unprecedented hurdles” due to the CCP’s efforts to “block and discredit independent reporting.”
The report also outlined “state-backed” attacks on foreign journalists, such as online trolling campaigns and flurries of lawsuit threats. These have “fostered a growing feeling among the Chinese public that foreign media are the enemy and directly encourage offline violence and harassment of journalists in the field.” Because of the resulting harassment, foreign journalists, “demoralized and under attack,” have left the mainland, along with their families.
“China’s approach to foreign journalists is in direct contrast to its own stated policies for foreign media and the Olympic spirit of excellence, friendship, and respect,” it concluded.