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Olympic media coverage: China vs West

Three pictures of protest, file images

Pro-Tibet protests disrupting the Olympic torch relay have dominated many Western media outlets recently.

But is the coverage itself perpetuating anti-China bias? And how are Chinese journalists covering the same events? Here is a snapshot of some of the prominent coverage:

SAN FRANCISCO

US press

There was a tight focus on the protests and the disruption they caused.

The New York Times described the torch's progress around the city as an "elaborate game of hide-and-seek... as city officials secretly rerouted the planned torch relay, swarmed its runners with blankets of security and then whisked the torch to the airport in a heavily guarded motorcade".

The San Francisco Chronicle also focused heavily on the change of route. Under the headline: "No torch, no problem - they came to protest", the paper painted a picture of a colourful array of protesters, all with different axes to grind, both pro and anti-China.

In a strident editorial, the Washington Post reflected on the events, saying: "The Chinese are seeing for themselves how public opinion around the world has been repulsed by their government's cynical and amoral foreign policy in places such as Sudan and Burma and by its repression of the Tibetan minority."

Chinese press

Under headlines including "Olympic torch relay concludes in San Francisco without major incidents" and "Chinese ambassador: Olympic torch relay in San Francisco 'successful'", state-run news agency Xinhua generally painted a positive picture of the relay.

The protests were mentioned in Xinhua's main news story, where it reported: "At one point, Tibetan separatists tried to disrupt the torch relay. They tried to grab the torch, but were pushed back by police escorting the torch relay."

Further down, the Xinhua article states: "Many San Francisco citizens expressed dismay at attempts to link the Olympic Games with politics."

Another state-run outlet, China Daily, carried articles similar in tone, with headlines including: "San Franciscans denounce disruptions." It also published picture galleries of angry clashes between pro-China and anti-China demonstrators.

PARIS

French press

There were straightforward headlines, including Le Parisien's "The fiasco" and L'Equipe's "Paris extinguishes the flame", combined with much reporting of the protests, with colour from the scene in most papers.

The left-leaning daily Liberation reported how the torch was greeted with jeers by protesters, who threw flags with an image of Olympic rings as handcuffs.

Right-leaning Le Figaro had some words of comfort for the Chinese government, arguing in an editorial: "While the defence of Tibetans is a noble cause, the gesticulations that we have witnessed over the holding of the Olympic Games in Paris are exaggerated."

The paper claims that the Beijing Olympics is a "golden opportunity" to advance the cause of liberty in China.

Chinese press

Xinhua's coverage of the Paris protests kicked off with the headline "French official lashes out at 'kidnapping of Olympics'".

In the archive of Xinhua's website, direct reporting of the protests that accompanied the torch around Paris is scant.

A one-line dispatch states: "The Olympic Torch was put on an accompanying bus due to technical reasons for the third time during its relay in the French capital Monday afternoon, a Xinhua photographer witnessed."

But there was considerable focus on the torchbearers, particularly Jin Jing, a disabled athlete who competes in the Paralympics. She was holding the torch during protests.

The Shanghai Daily reported: "A craven protester has attacked a wheelchair-bound female torchbearer from Shanghai being pushed by a blind Chinese teammate during the Paris section of the Beijing Olympics torch relay."

Xinhua also focused on Ms Jin, putting out several dispatches describing her bravery and reporting on how she received a hero's welcome when she returned home.

LONDON

UK press

Even before the torch touched down in London, the British media was speculating about possible protests.

On 5 April the Times reported under the headline "Police fear Olympic torch protests after China shootings in Tibet", following up the next day with "Met on protest alert as Olympic torch lands".

The Daily Telegraph preview of the London torch route concluded that the protests were "bringing light to political murk", and the paper's website later invited its readers to answer the question: Will you be boycotting the 2008 Olympics?

The tabloids rustled up a chorus of disapproval of China, with the Daily Mirror labelling the London leg of the torch's journey a "disturbing farce".

Under the headline "flaming injustice", the Mirror said: "The oppressive security needed to protect the Olympic torch in London should ram home to China's dictators what the world really thinks of them."

Chinese press

One of Xinhua's main news stories began with a flowery passage proclaiming: "The unseasonable snow in London did little to dampen people's passion for Beijing's Olympic flame as large crowds lined the street to greet the torch relay on Sunday."

The piece went on to describe the torch as a "sacred symbol of the Olympic spirit" spreading the "ideal of peace, friendship and progress" and labelled any attempt to "sabotage" the torch relay as running "against the trend of the times".

Xinhua published several pieces devoted to the protests, under headlines including "London police foil attempt to grab Olympic torch away".

But the main focus of their coverage was the colour and carnival of the torch's procession - an interview with classical violinist Vanessa Mae was more typical.




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