China: Thugs Disappearing Journalist on Camera at Olympics ‘Reasonable and Justified’

The Olympic rings are displayed at the main media center for the Beijing Winter Olympics o
AP Photo/David J. Phillip

China’s state-run Global Times on Sunday insisted the shocking viral video of a Dutch TV journalist getting dragged away from his camera in mid-broadcast by Beijing Winter Olympics security guards was actually “reasonable and justified,” but “anti-China forces” have magnified the incident into a major free speech scandal.

Sjoerd den Daas, a correspondent for NOS News, was covering the Olympics opening ceremony live on Friday when he was grabbed by a guard wearing a red armband and hustled off-camera. The guard became agitated when den Daas tried to continue his broadcast, while the in-studio anchors watched in amazement:

“Our correspondent @sjoerddendaas was pulled away from the camera by security guards at 12.00 pm live in the NOS Journaal. Unfortunately, this is increasingly becoming a daily reality for journalists in China. He is fine and was able to finish his story a few minutes later,” the news channel tweeted.

Den Daas later explained that he and his crew were told by Beijing police where they could set up and begin filming, and they followed all of the instructions they were given.

“However, just after we had gone live, I was forcefully pulled out of the picture without any warning by a plainclothes man wearing a red badge that read, ‘Public Safety Volunteer.’ He did not identify himself,” the reporter wrote.

Another goon seized the crew’s lighting equipment. Neither of them would explain what the news team supposedly did wrong.

“In recent weeks, we, like several foreign colleagues, have been hindered or stopped several times by the police while reporting on subjects related to the Games. Therefore, it’s hard to see last night’s incident as an isolated incident, as the IOC claims, although such interference rarely happens live on broadcast,” Den Daas wrote, referring to the International Olympic Committee’s comment on the viral video.

The Global Times on Sunday sneeringly dismissed the responses from NOS and den Daas as an “outdated cliche of Western media that intended to jab China’s ‘restriction’ of press freedom.”

Instead, the Chinese Communist newspaper blamed NOS and its correspondent for engaging in a “farce” and misunderstanding police instructions:

The fact is that the reporter had entered an area where Beijing police had notified on Thursday that it would be under temporary control during the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. In face of security guards, the reporter failed to show his identity card and kept escalating the incident. Apparently, the security guards’ “intrusion” was both reasonable and justified. 

The Global Times has found some evidence according to details in the video shown by NOS to support the conclusion that the media was confusing the right and the wrong.

First, according to the video, the Global Times figured out that Daas was standing at a cross of the Beisihuanzhong road and the Beichenxi road, which Beijing police had announced as early as on Thursday would be under temporary control from 2 pm Friday onward. The NOS show was shooting at 7 pm Friday.  

In the Global Times’ account of the incident, the guards with red armbands were “patiently persuading” den Daas and his crew to stop filming at the forbidden intersection.

“Sweat can clearly been seen running off from a guard’s head when he tries to ask den Daas to leave politely,” the Global Times wrote, insisting the goon squad only got physical after the Dutch news crew refused to show the stack of papers and certificates supposedly required to broadcast from their location.

“To be honest, their series of practices are very suspicious. It seems that they were not reporting news, but were ‘staging an incident,’” the Chinese editorial concluded ominously.

The UK Daily Mail on Friday speculated that den Daas and his crew were forced to move because they were “filming in an unphotogenic location, on a badly lit street, rather than the glamorous Bird’s Nest stadium.”


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