One year before the Beijing Olympics Norwegian NGOs launch China campaign

PRESS RELEASE FROM NORWEGIAN PEN, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL NORWAY AND  NORWEGIAN JOURNALISTS ASSOCIATION

One year before the Beijing Olympics Norwegian NGOs launch China campaign

– Norwegian Journalists Associations, Norwegian PEN and Amnesty International Norway share the hope that the 2008 Beijing Olympics will become a positive example regarding the influence of a large, international athletic arrangement and may lead to improvements for citizens of the hosting country regarding human rights, says John Peder Egenæs, secretary general of Amnesty International Norway on behalf of the three organisations

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Chinese authorities promised to improve the human rights rercord in China when the country was awarded the 2008 Olympics.  Only 365 days remain to fulfil this promise.

– We are worried that the situation for human rights in China has deteriorated prior to the Olympics.  The sports and the media are strong players who can contribute in reversing this negative development, adds Egenæs.

Rights under pressure
Basic rights are under increased pressure in China.  Freedom of expression is curbed and internett censorship increasing.  Human rights defenders are met with increased supression, the judiciary is under heavy political influence and torture is widespread.  Several hundreds of thousands are detained in so called re-schooling camps without trials.  In several cases these attacks have increased as a result of the preparations for the Olympics.

New report
These facts are presented in a new report from Amnesty International today.  The report demonstrates some positive changes, but the human rights challenges are still enormous within the four areas which the organisation is monitoring up until August 2008: The death penalty, detentions without conviction, harassment of human rights activists and freedom of the press.

Challenges the athletes and their leaders
– We are challenging the president of the Norwegian Sports Federation and the Olympic Committee, Tove Paule, to convey to IOC that Norwegian athletes and their organisations expect IOC to use their influence on Chinese authorities.  We want to see an improvement on all human rights issues, says Carl Morten Iversen, secretary general of Norwegian PEN.

The influence of the press
– International media may have a positive influence on the situation in China.  Both Norwegian and other international journalist have a responsibility to focus on human rights issues since they – as opposed to Chinese journalists – have been promised increased press freedom before and during the Olympics.  This poses unique possibilities both prior to, during and after the Olympic Games, says Kjetil Haanes, vice president and responsible for international relations in the Norwegian Journalists Association.  He adds that the three organisations will cooperate during the coming year in order that respect for human rights be on the agenda.

The campaign
The China campaign was launched at a press conference at the Human Rights House in Oslo on 7. August and has received widespread attention in Norwegian media.  Campaigning elements include a journalists´ handbook (also in English) and a campaign website to be launched later in the fall.  A seminar for sports journalists is planned for the spring of 2008 in cooperation with the Oslo college.

Oslo, August 8., 2007