A Reporters Without Borders representative spoke at Coca-Cola’s annual shareholders meeting today in the US city of Wilmington, Delaware, asking the company, an official sponsor of the Beijing Olympic Games, to clarify its policies in China. The press freedom organisation is urging all the sponsors to sign a declaration of responsibility undertaking to clearly demonstrate their “commitment to human rights.”
Other Reporters Without Borders members were stationed outside today’s meeting to tell participants about the situation of free speech in China.
“We became a shareholder in Coca-Cola in order to be able to make the shareholders, executives and consumers of one of the leading Olympic sponsors aware of the problems of human rights and freedoms in China and Tibet,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Coca-Cola and the other companies that finance the Olympic Games have a role to play in ensuring respect for the Olympic Charter they signed.
“As the political significance of these games is now evident to the entire world, Coca-Cola can no longer remain silent about human rights violations in Tibet and the current crackdown on dissidents in China. It is perfectly legitimate to do business in China, but Coca-Cola and the other sponsors also have a duty to promote activity in China in support of the Olympic values of human dignity and harmonious development.”
Reporters Without Borders added: “In the declaration we are proposing to all the sponsors, we are asking them to take a position in favour of freedom in China and to create a support fund for the families of political prisoners.”
The Reporters Without Borders spokesperson who intervened during today’s annual shareholders meeting was the organisation’s US representative, Lucie Morillon. Referring to the proposed declaration for Olympic sponsors, she urged Coca-Cola’s executives to take a public position on the violations of human rights and free speech committed by the country hosting this summer’s games.
"Don’t you think that repression in China and Tibet is in danger of harming the Coca-Cola brand image around the world," Morillon asked. "If you do nothing in support of rights and freedoms, Reporters Without Borders will consider the possibility of asking consumers to protest," she added.
Coca-Cola CEO Neville Isdell replied that the company supports press freedom worldwide but he would have to read the declaration before taking a position on it.
Declaration of responsibility