ESPN decides not to send reporters to Beijing Olympics

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ESPN had planned to send four ESPN had planned to send four reporters to China, after traveling five employees to last year’s Summer Olympics in Tokyo, but those reporters will now join a larger group dedicated to covering the Games remotely, the statement said….reports Asian Lite News

ESPN has announced that it will not be sending any news personnel to the Winter Olympics in China due to concerns arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company, said in a statement, that it will instead focus on covering the Games remotely with a robust plan that will roll out prior to the beginning of the competition next month.

“The safety of our employees is of utmost importance to us,” said Norby Williamson, ESPN Executive Vice President, Event and Studio Production & Executive Editor. “With the pandemic continuing to be a global threat, and with the COVID-related on-site restrictions in place for the Olympics that would make coverage very challenging, we felt that keeping our people home was the best decision for us.”

ESPN had planned to send four reporters to China, after traveling five employees to last year’s Summer Olympics in Tokyo, but those reporters will now join a larger group dedicated to covering the Games remotely, the statement said.

“As was the case with the Summer Olympics, organizers have taken steps to make information and online interviews available for media outlets covering the Games remotely. ESPN has multiple reporters assigned to do so for both television and digital news platforms,” it added.

Beijing has beefed up for the prevention of COVID-19 after the more contagious variant of the virus, Omicron, has appeared in the capital city. So far, COVID-19 infections have been detected in four districts in Beijing, state media reported.

The 2022 Beijing Olympics is set to begin on February 4.

Beijing’s threats to muzzle athletes

The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has raised concern about the veiled threats issued by Chinese authorities over freedom of speech ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics 2022 next month.

As sports fever grows with the approach of the Beijing Winter Olympics 2022, so too do the expectations of the Chinese authorities and their collaborators in the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for athletes to be silent about China’s mass atrocity crimes, said HRW in its daily brief.

This remark comes after Yang Shu, the Deputy Director-General of Beijing 2022’s International Relations Department, made a contentious statement where he said, “…any behaviour or speeches that are against the Olympic spirit, especially against Chinese laws and regulations, are also subject to certain punishment.”

The Human Rights Watch said in its daily brief that “athletes are not commodities they can use to “sportswash” the country’s global reputation.

“Sadly, their rights will be stepped on in Beijing. Many would like to speak out about China’s crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and numerous other serious abuses, but the threats they face for doing so are all too real,” the group added.

HRW’s Senior China Researcher, Yaqiu Wang, told The Guardian: “Chinese laws are very vague on the crimes that can be used to prosecute people’s free speech… There are all kinds of crimes that can be levelled at peaceful, critical comments. And in China the conviction rate is 99%.”

In China, critics of the government have routinely been sentenced to prison for staging political protests, or for comments they made on social media.

While it’s unlikely Beijing would risk international ire to severely punish an athlete at the Olympics for speech, Yang Shu declined to answer on Tuesday what the maximum punishment could be for political demonstration at the Games.

China’s human rights record has come under heavy scrutiny ahead of the Winter Olympics, with the US and several other countries announcing a diplomatic boycott of the event as a statement against China’s “ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, Washington Post reported. (ANI)

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