After unprecedented openness in the year preceding the 2008 Beijing Olympics, China’s relatively relaxed attitude toward the foreign media is set to end this Friday, October 17. While some continue to express concern that the Chinese government’s openness didn’t exist in practice–foreign media were prevented from entering Tibet during spring 2008 turmoil in the region and from what I saw there was little reporting done outside of the Games themselves, photographically (Kevin German’s “Outside the Rings” is a notable exception; and this is more a problem of what publishers would run rather than what photographers shot…)–the sheer number of foreign journalists in the capital during the Olympics was astonishing. See PDNPulse’s listing of some of the photographers blogging during the Games.
Foreign journalists working in China have urged the government to extend the press freedoms enjoyed prior to the Olympics. Indeed, these freedoms, among other issues, were touted by Olympic officials as a benefit of letting China host the Games. Prior to the relaxation of rules governing foreign media in the country, journalists were required to register with Chinese authorities in order to travel and report within the country and were always accompanied by government spokesmen; journalists requesting travel to report on sensitive issues were routinely denied permission to leave one of the 5 cities in which they were allowed to reside. The press freedoms at issue here, it should also be noted, never extended to China’s domestic media.