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8/21/2008
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Chinese Police Arrest Bloggers Covering Olympics Protest, Reports Say

Five American bloggers have been arrested in China while reportedly covering pro-Tibet demonstration.

The Committee to Protect Bloggers said that Chinese police arrested Brian Conley at 3 a.m. Tuesday in Beijing. Conley was reportedly covering a New York artist, James Powderly, who uses lasers and planned an event to draw attention to Tibet. Conley founded Alive in Baghdad, a video news site that offers RSS feed from Iraq. He also works for the Hub.

He and four others -- Jeffrey Rae, Michael Liss, Jeff Goldin, and Tom Grantles -- have been sentenced to 10 days detention, according to the Committee, which has been following the developments and urging members to press U.S. representatives for the bloggers' release.

Their arrest came two days before Reporters Without Borders released Chinese government documents telling police not to obstruct the international press. However, that organization claims that authorities have manhandled or arrested at least 10 foreign journalists since the 2008 Olympics began in Beijing. It also notes that the government instructed police to deal swiftly with religious demonstrations and to investigate Chinese citizens who speak with foreign media.

"The rules for the foreign press adopted in January 2007 were simple and explicit -- freedom of movement and freedom to interview," Reporters Without Borders explained. "The Chinese police documents obtained by Reporters Without Borders show that the police were indeed ordered to let foreign journalists work, but they were also ordered to investigate the Chinese who told them embarrassing things."

Although the directives aim to protect accredited foreign journalists so they can conduct interviews, Reporters Without Borders said they also could indicate potential for reprisals against Chinese citizens when the games are over and China is no longer under the glare of foreign press and audiences.

"They also ask police to prevent nonaccredited journalists from working," Reporters Without Borders explained.

The group reported the following incidents in which it claims police violated the directives: authorities prevented Hong Kong journalists from filming an unruly crowd trying to get tickets for the Olympics; police obstructed and arrested John Ray, a reporter for the United Kingdom's ITN, as he covered pro-Tibet activists demonstrating on Aug. 13. Also, police destroyed equipment and content owned by a photographer working for the United Kingdom's Guardian, and authorities forced Associated Press photographers to delete some of their photographs.

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