China’s new Olympic tactic: boring ‘flash’ quotes

From Jacquelin Magnay, Sydney Morning Herald
Yet another sinister censorship medium has been going on under the noses of the 20,000 media working from the Main Press Center. Initially I thought it was simply incompetence, perhaps the work of maybe a young, inexperienced wannabe journalist that is employed by the Olympic News Service. But it appears to be more widespread than that.

The ONS supplies flash quotes – a quick grab of press conferences that highlights something incisive, sometimes controversial, sometimes ground breaking – on an internal communications system, so that journalists can remain informed even if they haven’t attended the conferences. It is not a transcript per se, but a taste of what was said.

But not in China. The ONS quotes have been bland and cliched. This is one example: “We will enjoy our stay in China, we will compete the best we can’.’ (zzzzzzzz)

Is this the latest tactic – bore the pants of inquisitive journos? BOCOG already has this boredom strategy down pat. Their press conferences start with prepared monologues with lots of statistics which then dissolve into truly mind numbingness when they never answer a direct question. But the ONS is supposedly independent, not an arm of the Chinese (even if one of their reporters was refused a visa because she had signed a protest about Darfur).

When Australian rower James Tomkins was asked about his advice to young Australian athletes perhaps wishing to make a protest in China, the question and the answer were missing from the ONS. So too any other political type questions – and answers from all of the athlete press conferences I have attended this week.

It appears the athletes have the freedom to speak, but the ONS has the gall to refuse to report it. This is very disturbing.

â–¡Japanese government officials say it will lodge a strong protest with China against the alleged rough treatment of two journalists covering a deadly assault in the north-west of the country yesterday.

A photographer for the Tokyo Shimbun newspaper was forcibly detained in the city of Kashgar late yesterday and kicked by police, his employer said. A reporter for the Nippon Television Network was also detained and treated roughly by Chinese police who pushed his face to the ground, the network said.

The journalists were reporting on an attack yesterday on police officers who were jogging near their barracks in the north-western outskirts that left 16 dead and as many injured.

“The government is still collecting information, although we believe the incident really occurred,” Japan government spokesman Nobutaka Machimura told reporters. “We are planning to make a strong protest.”

Award-winning sportswriter Magnay is covering her seventh Olympics in Beijing. To read her daily blog, click here

Click here to read: China’s ‘half-kept’ Olympic promises

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