CPJ Provides Safety Advice to Journalists While Reporting on Winter Olympics in China

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In preparing journalists for going to Beijing for the 2022 Winter Olympics, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) issued safety advice to help journalists better guard themselves against the surveillance of the regime.

China remains the world’s worst jailer of journalists for the third year in a row, with 50 behind bars, as the CPJ revealed. Both Chinese and international journalists are facing ever-stricter censorship and control.

Earlier, the CPJ expressed its concern that China’s mistreatment of journalists has steadily worsened since 2008. CPJ summarized that China’s Olympic press freedom pledges were “worthless in 2008,” and “absent in 2022.”

Citing the Foreign Correspondents Club of China (FCCC) Statement on Olympic Coverage, CPJ indicated that foreign journalists reporting conditions in the run-up to, and during, the Games are denied because journalists are required “to submit COVID test results within an impossible timeframe of only a few hours.”

“In March 2021, the FCCC said 20 international journalists had been expelled in the preceding year, while reporters are frequently followed and interviewees scared to engage,” reported CPJ.

To prepare for the worst reporting conditions in the Olympics, CPJ offered tips journalists should follow before entering the “closed loop” or bubble that has already been put into place for the Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Guard Yourself Against Being Spied On

CPJ advised journalists traveling to Beijing to assume the devices and online activity are monitored at all times.

There are also “top digital security tips for journalists at the Beijing Olympics:

  • “Leave your devices home. Wipe an old phone and laptop or purchase new ones for the trip.
  • “In case of restrictions, ask journalists in China which apps and VPNs work for them.
  • “Create a new work email specifically for the trip.
  • “Assume your hotel room is under surveillance.
  • “Keep your devices with you and avoid leaving them unattended.
  • “Wipe all devices on your return.”

CPJ particularly warned about the use of WeChat: “Avoid installing the Chinese app WeChat on your devices, since it is likely to collect a lot of data, including messages and calls.”

In addition, CPJ warned that wiping or factory resetting all phones and computers will not guarantee to erase all malware, “so stop using them altogether if you can.”

Likewise, the Belgian Olympic and Interfederal Committee also recently advised athletes not to bring their mobile phones and laptops in order to avoid having them be exposed to cyber-espionage during the Beijing Winter Olympics.

The Chinese embassy in Belgium responded to the comment in a press conference on Jan. 12 saying that the claim regarding “risk of cyber-espionage is completely unfounded and the worries are unnecessary.”

Previously, CPJ was concerned by the decision to award the 2022 Winter Olympic Games to Beijing and called on the International Olympic Committee to ensure press freedom at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Xu Jian contributed to this report.

Mary Hong

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