Censorship at Sochi Games

Sochi Olympics logo (File)
Sochi Olympics logo (File)

Washington - Press coverage of human rights abuses and other issues in Russia ahead of the Sochi Olympics has been stifled by Russian authorities, an international journalism rights group warned on Tuesday.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) released a report on alleged obstruction by authorities and self-censorship by Russian journalists amid fears of retaliation.

Issues such as the exploitation of migrant workers involved in construction at the Games, corruption, environmental damages and the eviction of local residents have not been covered extensively in Russian news media, CPJ said.

Instead, local media have been censored by Sochi and Russian officials or have chosen to ignore the issues for fear of censorship and other repercussions, the report said.

State media have published propaganda against activists who speak about their concerns, while local human rights advocates had been intimidated for their efforts to publicize violations, CPJ found in the report titled Media Suffer Winter Chill in Coverage of Sochi Olympics.

International journalists had also suffered harassment, but there was an upside in that international coverage had prompted more coverage within Russia, CPJ said.

The group called on the International Olympic Committee to clearly and unequivocally condemn press freedom violations and hold host countries responsible if they fail to uphold international standards of press freedom.

Moscow should repeal laws that limit press freedom; not pass any other such laws; cease media censorship; allow free, independent and unobstructive coverage of Sochi; investigate press freedom violations; cease propaganda against victims of human rights abuses; issue visas to international journalists critical of the Kremlin; and halt the collection of data about journalists including their telephone and internet data, CPJ said.

Olympic corporate sponsors and journalists themselves should also speak out on press freedom issues, it said.

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