A Norwegian news crew say they were detained, harassed and threatened with imprisonment whilst reporting on the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia.
Over the course of three days, the Russian authorities repeatedly detained and questioned the crew from Norway’s TV2 television station, which is the official broadcaster in Norway of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games, according to Human Rights Watch.
“The government’s treatment of TV2’s crew should shock the International Olympic Committee,” said Jane Buchanan, associate director for Europe and Central Asia at Human Rights Watch.
“The IOC needs to demand a full explanation from the Russian authorities about the bullying of an Olympic broadcaster’s staff and insist that no other journalists suffer this kind of intimidation and harassment.”
The Human Rights Watch condemned the arrests, and said that Russian authorities should immediately stop such arrests and intimidation of journalists.
Between 31 October and 2 November, Russian traffic police stopped Oystein Bogen, a reporter for TV2, and cameraman Aage Aunes six times while the men were reporting on stories in the Republic of Adygea, which borders Sochi to the north along the Black Sea coast.
According to the pair, officials took the journalists into police custody three times. At every stop and in detention, officials questioned the journalists aggressively about their work plans in Sochi and other areas, their sources, and in some cases about their personal lives, educational backgrounds, and religious beliefs. In several instances they denied the journalists contact with the Norwegian Embassy in Moscow. One official threatened to jail Bogen.
Bogen told Human Rights Watch that their research and reporting aimed to shed a critical light on different aspects of the preparations for the Olympic Games in Sochi.
“The Russian authorities tried almost every pressure tactic in the book to try to scare these journalists away from critical reporting on Sochi and other Olympics-related topics,” Buchanan said. “Thousands of reporters will visit Sochi for the Games and it is one of the central requirements of hosting the Olympics that they can report without interference and intimidation.”Press freedom is expressly guaranteed and protected under the Olympic Charter, which dedicates an entire section to “Media Coverage of the Olympic Games.” The IOC is obligated to take “all necessary steps in order to ensure the fullest coverage by the different media.” Other bylaws require that “media coverage of the Olympic Games shall not be impaired in any way….”