China’s Unreality TV

The New York Times today has an editorial expressing concern over press freedom in China int he run-up to the Olympics:

To win the right to host the Games, Beijing promised to expand press freedoms for foreign reporters and implied that opening China to the world would help expand human rights more generally.

We will never know whether China’s leaders intended to keep their word. What we do know is that the International Olympic Committee, corporate sponsors and governments around the world should have held China to its word. They have not, and China has read their silence as complicity.

China has jailed critics, denied visas and threatened news organizations that negative coverage could jeopardize their chance to cover the Games.

Read also “Networks Fight Shorter Olympic Leash” from the New York Times:

Hundreds of athletes will parade into a stadium in front of world leaders, including President Bush, and a huge global television audience. If an athlete holds a protest sign or waves a Tibetan flag, how will the Chinese hosts react? Will the television networks show the scene? How will the Chinese handle the media for the rest of the Games?

The stakes are high for both the network, which paid $900 million for broadcast rights for the Olympics, and the reputation of NBC News. If it covers any controversies aggressively, it risks drawing the ire of the Chinese and interfering with coverage of sports events. But if it shies from coverage of any protests, NBC risks being criticized in the West for kowtowing to China — particularly since its corporate parent, General Electric, is aggressively expanding its investments in China.

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