Japan: foreign journalists to be tracked by GPS at Tokyo Olympics 

  • 16 Jun 2021

The NUJ said it was a direct attack on press freedom and privacy and urged the UK and Irish governments to defend journalists' rights to report on the games without this "outrageous impediment".  

The union has backed calls by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) to the Japanese Olympic Organising Committee to reverse its decision to track non-domestic journalists by GPS during the games. 

Séamus Dooley, NUJ assistant general secretary, said: 

“This is an unacceptable intrusion by the National Olympic Committee in Japan into a privacy of visiting journalists.  It also poses a serious threat to independent media coverage of the Olympics. The International Olympics Committee must intervene with the host committee to prevent this assault on media freedom.

“We are gravely concerned at this development and are calling on UK and Irish media organisations to refuse to co-operate with the tagging of journalists and crews covering the games. Media scrutiny of the Olympics is of vital importance and this latest attempt to directly control the activities of journalists covering the games raises issues of fundamental importance.

“We also urge the UK and Irish governments to  defend the right of journalists to report on the games without this outrageous impediment.  “

Seiko Hashimoto, president of the Tokyo Olympics, announced on June 8 that international journalists will be tracked by GPS as a means of maintaining safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. If journalists do not comply with the tracking regime, their Olympic access passes will be revoked. He said: "To make sure that people don't go to places other than the places where they are registered to go, we will use GPS to strictly manage their behaviour.” 

The GPS monitoring will be conducted through tracking the phones of media personnel and Olympic organisers will be instructing them to keep the positioning function on and save the data. This data will be provided to organisers if required. 

Toshiro Muto, CEO of the games, said: 

"We think this is an acceptable restriction given the current COVID situation…this is not relevant to the freedom of the press.” 

The monitoring will apply to only overseas journalists, not domestic journalists and will be in place for the first 14 days of the Olympic Games, which will run from July 23 to August 8. 

The IFJ said:

“The implementation of such precaution denies journalists their right to privacy and limits the freedom of the press. The IFJ urges the Olympic Organising Committee to repeal this regulation and discuss alternative ways of maintaining the safety of all attendees with journalists and their unions.” 

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