Wednesday, August 13, 2008

British journalist arrested in Beijing protest

The pictures of the incident will do little for China's image

An ITN reporter has been arrested by Chinese police during a Free Tibet demonstration in Beijing. John Ray was bundled into a van despite protestations that he was a British journalist. In the scuffles a Guardian photographer, Dan Chung, was also manhandled as were a number of other reporters and photographers. Ray said he had been prevented from showing his press accreditation and had been subject to a certain amount of physical violence. His shoes were taken from him and he was filmed by police. "I have been roughed up. They dragged me, pulled me and knocked me to the ground. Now they are filming me," Mr Ray told the UK's Guardian newspaper from the back of the police van as he was driven away.

He was held for around twenty minutes and according to some reports his hands were stamped on by police. Upon his release John Ray said he was “extremely angry”. His bag of equipment had also been confiscated in the incident. The fate of the up to eight protesters is still unknown. China pledged to allow freedom for journalists covering the Games, but has since been criticised for trying to curtail coverage of sensitive subjects [BBC].

The controls that Beijing wants to exert over journalists is only enflaming matters. News of the protest today has been blacked out from mainland Chinese press, as has the news of the fake opening ceremony song, the fake fireworks, Olympic connections of the murdered American tourist and the actress who was paralysed in opening ceremony rehearsals. But around the world the stories, and attempts to stop them being reported, are making headlines. “I am just wondering where this fits in with China’s solemn undertaking to allow us to report freely during the Olympics” Ray said after his release [SMH / CNN / Sky News / ITN].

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