Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao has denied earlier remarks by the nation's top press officer that the authorities were building a database of overseas reporters' profiles ahead of the Olympic Games. The statement was reported by the state press agency Xinhua, to be later taken up by China Daily and People’s Daily on November 12.
The article in question was an interview with Liu Binjie, minister of the General Administration of Press and Publication, which raised concerns over media freedom during the Olympics. In the interview, Liu Binjie said the database would cover 8,000 foreign journalists accredited to report from inside Olympic Games venues, and 20,000 others allowed to report outside the venues.
In the traditional meeting with the press on November 13th, Liu Jianchao denied everything and said that the article was inexact: “There is no such database and I have not heard of a plan for setting up such a database … I have confirmed that it was a mistake by the reporter”. Liu, claimed the reporter had misunderstood what the official was saying. He added that the Foreign Ministry, not the press watchdog, would be responsible for foreign reporters during the Olympics.
The news of a database of journalists had concerned International media who saw it a san attempt to limit press freedom during the Games. According to the incriminated article the database of overseas reporters' profiles was to be used by potential interviewees.
China is leaving no leaf unturned in its attempts to project a positive image of the nation ahead of the Olympics, but its moves are being countered by criticism and documentation regarding the pitiful state of the environments, human rights violations, corruption, etc. In recent months the government had assured full press freedom as well as freedom of movement for foreign journalists from January to August 2008. At the same time however, local journalists have been banned from reporting negative stories on China or the Games.