Target: Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee
Goal: Ensure complete press freedom ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi
Recently, two Norwegian journalists were repeatedly detained and questioned in Russia while reporting on the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. They were harassed, intimidated, threatened with imprisonment, and denied contact with the Norwegian embassy. Ahead of the Olympic Games, it is imperative that freedom of the press be ensured to the thousands of journalists who will be visiting the country.
Reporter Oystein Bogen and his cameraman, Aage Aunes, were stopped by traffic police on six separate occasions during three days and detained three of those times. In custody, they were questioned aggressively about their plans, sources, and sometimes even personal lives and religious beliefs. They were, on several occasions, denied a call to the Norwegian embassy and threatened with imprisonment.
At one point, a senior police officer accused Bogen of being under the influence of a narcotic drug, and ordered him to submit to a drug test. Upon asking the officer the consequences of noncompliance, the officer replied that it would be considered an admission of guilt and he would be jailed. After calling the Norwegian embassy in Moscow, he refused the test and was released a short time later.
Officers refused to state the reason for detention, and did not inform the men of their rights. Some officers did not wear a badge, and others tampered with confiscated electronic devices such as cell phones and laptops. During questioning, an officer explicitly asked whether they were planning on including any negative connotations toward the Olympic games in their report.
The men, a crew from Norway’s TV2, were in Sochi and bordering areas to prepare a report critical of preparations for the Olympic Games, and believe that they would not have had so many issues otherwise. Whether negative or positive, the Olympic Charter requires that media coverage not be impaired in any way. Your signature will demand that the Olympic Committee immediately ensure that further media harassment does not occur.
Dear Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee,
Recently, Oystein Bogen and Aage Aunes, two Norwegian journalists, were repeatedly detained, questioned, and taken into custody while reporting in the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. The men were questioned aggressively about their work plans, sources, background, and religious beliefs. They were denied contact with their embassy, threatened with imprisonment, and accused of possessing narcotic drugs.
The Olympic Charter states that press coverage remain completely unhindered, and that all necessary steps must be taken to ensure the fullest coverage by various media outlets. I demand that this blatant intimidation of journalists and members of the media be put to an immediate stop.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Global Sports Forum via Creative Commons