CJFE Begins 'Olympic Watch' for Vancouver Olympics

Monday, January 18, 2010

In light of several recent incidents Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) is initiating an 'Olympic Watch' in the lead up to the Winter Olympics in Vancouver in February 2010.

CJFE has taken note of several troubling confrontations in the past two months where free expression has come under threat due to overly-muscular protection of the Olympic brand and events connected to the 2010 Games.

"We don't want to see free expression values become a casualty of this event," says CJFE President Arnold Amber. "The Winter Olympics organizing committee states their mission is to build 'a stronger Canada whose spirit is raised by its passion for sport, culture and sustainability', it would be a terrible legacy if the fundamental right of free expression and free media was trampled in the process."

Among the incidents that have caused CJFE concern:

In Ontario, two Toronto Sun journalists were assaulted while covering the torch relay. One of them, 60 year old photographer Ian Robertson required hospital treatment for an apparent head injury after he was shoved to the ground by security officers for the Torch.

In November 2009, U.S. journalist Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now!, was stopped at the B.C.-Washington state border on her way to Vancouver and interrogated about whether or not she was planning to criticize the Olympics in a speech she was scheduled to give. Her vehicle was searched during the incident and time limits were placed on her stay.

In Vancouver, the city used its anti-graffiti bylaw to order an art gallery to take down a work of art which depicted five rings, four with unhappy faces. The gallery owner and artist view the city's actions as an attempt to stifle anti-Olympic sentiments.

This is not the first time that free expression and the Olympics have collided. Before and during the 2008 Summer Olympics held in Beijing there were widespread reports of arrests, convictions, censorship, and surveillance of journalists.

CJFE encourages all those working on the 2010 Games to commit Canada to a higher standard and to promote an Olympics that respects the right to free expression.

CJFE will continue to monitor free expression issues in connection with the Winter Olympics and will issue periodic reports if necessary. To view other incidents, visit the Censorship Gallery created by the BC Civil Liberties Association and the Pivot Legal Society at: http://2010legalobserver.wordpress.com/censorship-gallery