Wed, Nov 14, 2007 - Page 20 News List

China denies keeping dossiers on reporters

AP , BEIJING

Chinese officials are denying reports they're keeping dossiers on foreign journalists who are planning to cover the Beijing Olympics.

With fewer than nine months until the Beijing Games open, Chinese officials attempted to back away yesterday from widely published comments that the communist government is assembling a database to monitor foreign journalists.

The Foreign Ministry and the Beijing organizing committee struggled to contain the damage from a front-page story in the state-run China Daily, with officials offering a series of denials 24 hours after the report appeared.

The story raises questions about the country's pledge of increased media freedom, part of a successful campaign in landing the Olympics six years ago. It also suggests China's authoritarian government may have heavy-handed plans for dealing with the 28,000 reporters expected for the games.

"The report you mentioned is incorrect," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao (劉建超) said yesterday. "There is no such database."

"I have confirmed that it was a mistake by the reporter," Liu added. "The reporter misunderstood what the official was saying. He was speaking about fake reporters in China, Chinese people pretending to be foreign reporters in China. There have been instances of people tricking others. He was talking about this. But in fact this has nothing to do with foreign reporters."

In the China Daily story on Monday, the head of the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP) -- Liu Binjie (柳斌杰) -- was reported saying a database on foreign reporters was being compiled. The story said the profiles could be used to ferret out "fake reporters" who might slip into China.

The GAPP is the regulatory agency for books, newspapers and magazines. The English-language China Daily newspaper is generally considered the official voice of the government on important matters like the Olympics.

It claimed that information already had been compiled on the 8,000 foreign reporters who will be allowed to work inside Olympic venues, while authorities were building a database on another 20,000 foreign journalists who will be permitted to work in China during the Games.

Only reporters with Olympic media accreditation can work inside the venues.

"It's impossible that there's such a database," Liu said. "The application process [for reporters] hasn't even started yet so how could there be a database?"

He said there were no plans for a database, just the usual record of "everyone's registration" after the accreditation process is completed.

Separately, two top Olympic officials said they had not seen the China Daily story until they were shown it yesterday by an Associated Press reporter.

"China's policy for foreign reporters is quite open," said Li Zhanjun, director of the Beijing Olympic Media Center. "The surveillance of reporters or a blacklist does not exist."

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