A reporter covering the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing was physically pulled away from a live camera shot on Friday.
Video captured from the live shot showed Dutch NOS Journal reporter Sjoerd den Daas being pulled away by an official in a red armband. As the camera shot zooms out, additionally officials could be seen surrounding the camera crew.
“Our correspondent [Sjoerd den Daas] @sjoerddendaas was pulled away from the camera by security guards at 12:00 pm live in the NOS Journaal,” the outlet said in a translated tweet. “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.”
According to the Dutch news outlet Algemeen Dagblad, den Daas was discussing the opening ceremonies for the Olympic games. As he was being pulled away, den Daas said, “We are now being pulled out of here. We have just been expelled from another area, so I’m afraid we’ll have to come back to you later.”
It’s unclear why the Chinese officials physically removed den Daas from the live shot.
NOS editor-in-chief Marcel Gelauff told Algemeen Dagblad that the incident is “a painful illustration” of the state of press freedom in the country. “Sjoerd has often told and shown that it is difficult as a journalist in China. There is a far-reaching tendency to curtail freedoms, and this may be even stronger because of corona.”
The removal incident comes as China already faces increased scrutiny of its human rights record. The U.S. has already begun a diplomatic boycott of the games, citing China’s treatment of its ethnic minority Uyghur population.
China is allegedly holding an estimated 1.8 million Uyghurs in detention camps in its Xinjiang province. Both former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden’s administrations have described China’s treatment of its Uyghur population as genocide.
The Beijing games have also raised concerns China may use the opportunity to surveil international athletes, officials and journalists. Cyber security researchers have found vulnerabilities that could be used to surveil users on China’s official Olympics app, which is compulsory for all participants. The U.S. Olympic Committee and the Olympic delegations of other countries have reportedly advised their athletes to use disposable phones during the Olympic games in China.
NBC’s coverage of the games has also raised questions over whether China is attempting to control how outlets cover the event. Last month, lawmakers asked NBC whether China was influencing its official coverage of the games, including by precluding the broadcaster from coverage critical of the Chinese government.
NBC has already drawn backlash for its coverage of the opening ceremonies of the games. During the ceremony, one NBC reporter said “It’s worth remembering that while Western countries may be boycotting these Olympics over human rights issues, China styles itself as a champion of the developing world and it has plenty of support in countries from Africa to Latin America where its investments have [built] up local economies.”
The reference to Chinese investments in Africa and Latin America appears to refer to China’s Belt & Road Initiative. U.S. officials have referred to the Chinese economic development initiative as a form of “debt diplomacy.” In 2018, Sri Lanka found itself unable to pay down loans from China and signed away control of a major seaport to China.