Reporters Without Borders is outraged by Slovenian sports
minister Milan Zver’s recommendation yesterday, in an interview for the
Associated Press, that Olympic athletes avoid talking about human
rights while they are in Beijing.
“This kind of statement by
Slovenia, the current holder of the European Union presidency,
encourages the Chinese government to do nothing to improve the human
rights situation before the start of the Beijing Summer Olympics,” the
press freedom organisation said.
“The Slovenian sports minister is undermining the work of
European institutions, human rights organisations and, in general, all
those who defend basic freedoms,” Reporters Without Borders continued.
“We call on Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa, whose government
holds the EU presidency, and the other members of the European Council
to disown Zver’s comments and to reaffirm everyone’s right, if they
desire, to talk about the situation of basic freedoms in China during
the Beijing games.”
The organisation added: “With less than six
months to go to the games, the only acceptable statement from the
sports minister of any country is to say that athletes are free to
express their views on any subject they like. Zver should follow the
example of his Scandinavian counterparts who have briefed their
athletes on the human rights situation in China.”
Zver told the
Associated Press: “Sports is too important. It is too important to use
it as a political instrument.” Talking about the human rights situation
while in Beijing could have an adverse effect on the Chinese
authorities, he said. “They need more time. Give them the time for that
and do not use sports as an instrument.”
president Hans-Gert Pöttering has urged the Chinese authorities on
several occasions to improve the human rights situation before the
Beijing games. He mentioned the release of human rights activist Hu Jia
Slovenia began a six-month stint as holder of the EU rotating presidency on 1 January.