BEIJING – Journalists who have been covering the Beijing Olympics for weeks, being hermetically sealed in a closed-loop system, will have an incomplete picture of what reports in China entail.
Inside the Olympic “bubble” people who tell the world the story of the Games are surrounded by volunteers who offer help with a smile and marvel at how far you have traveled to come to Beijing. Security leaves you in pictures from pre-designated perimeters and places without hindrance.
When the Sports Arbitration Court held a doping hearing for Russian figure skater Kamila Valiyeva, journalists were allowed to ask officials for comment. Inside the bubble, even the Great Firewall – China’s widespread Internet censorship – has disappeared from official Wi-Fi.
For the press service moving in the bubble, it may seem that there is some breadth and freedom in the reports. But this is not the case with daily reporting in China – not for foreign journalists and, of course, not for Chinese reporters working for state-controlled media.
Missing inside the bubble are constantly present poles of lanterns with surveillance cameras. There are no police or security agents everywhere, who regularly interrogate journalists and film crews on public streets. Nowhere do you see “tails” in civilian clothes hanging around your hotel while on a mission, or officers pushing you when you shoot something they don’t want to see the world.
The stated goal of a closed system is often to minimize coronavirus infection and to secure the person participating in the Games from the Chinese public.
But it also presents a refined version of the reporting environment in China – ideal for public and global consumption.
Beijing-based Associated Press journalist Emily Wang Fujiyama usually works outside the “bubble”, but February spent inside her, covering the Olympics. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/emfwang
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