11/13/2007, 00.00

Chinese media told to avoid negative Olympic coverage

Chinese reporters told not to cover pollution, tainted food, the torch relay and the Paralympics. They should instead try to influence their foreign colleagues with positive stories. Meanwhile authorities are preparing a big foreign journalists database.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – The Central Publicity Department has issued a warning telling mainland editors to stay away from negative coverage of the Olympic Games. The notice ordered journalists to steer clear of Olympics-related story and topics that could show the country in a bad light. They include topics like air quality, pollution, food safety, the latest tainted food scare, the torch relay and Taiwan, the Paralympics and recent cases of violence against the disabled.

The message comes at a time when the Beijing Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (BOCOG) went on a charm offensive to win over overseas media critics.

BOCOG has offered Beijing-based foreign correspondents a series of organised tours of some previously off-limits Games-related sites and organised interviews last week with a number of hard-to-reach sports officials and celebrity athletes. More reporters were also ferried to the workshops of two Olympics food suppliers. This in itself is quite unusual since questions are usually answered and interviews organised after long waiting periods.

The warning sent to Chinese editors also urged them to print more positive stories about the Olympics in order to influence their foreign colleagues.

By the same token, the authorities are planning a database of foreign reporters covering the games as a reference to would-be interviewees.

The database would include 8,000 foreign journalists accredited to report from inside Olympic Games venues, and 20,000 allowed to report outside.

It will be used to crackdown on fake reporters who might use the Olympics to come to China and interview anyone.

Beijing is concerned that pro-democracy activists, Falun Gong members or Tibetans might infiltrate the country as journalists.

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