World press body calls for freedom in China

By RIA Novosti

Moscow : The World Association of Newspapers (WAN) has urged China to secure freedom of press and to release journalists being held in prison before the Beijing Summer Olympic Games.

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China promised to be “open in every aspect to the rest of the country and the whole world,” if granted the right to stage the 2008 Olympics.

“We will draw on the successful experience of others and follow international standards and criteria,” the Beijing Olympic Action Plan issued in 2002 said.

WAN said on its official Web site that China has failed to meet its commitments.

“The Chinese government has increased its repression of free expression and press freedom, and continues to imprison and harass those who dare speak openly as the opening of the Games fast approaches,” the organization said.

According to WAN information, “over 30 journalists and more than 50 cyber reporters are imprisoned in China, and the country’s media are under total control of the authorities.”

“If China is to be considered a worthy host of the Olympic Games, the authorities must fulfill their promises and allow for freedom of expression both among journalists and ordinary citizens,” the organization said.

WAN, founded in 1948 and based in Paris, is a non-profit, non-government organization that groups 76 national newspaper associations, individual newspaper executives in 102 nations, 10 news agencies, and 10 regional press organizations.

The Russian News and Information Agency RIA Novosti became an associate member of WAN in September last year. The association has the status of an official consultant representing the interests of a newspaper industry in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), the United Nations (UN) and the Council of Europe (CE).