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

Seiko Hashimoto, president of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Organising Committee, speaks during a press conference in Tokyo on June 11, 2021. (Photo by Yuichi Yamazaki / POOL / AFP)

The president of the Tokyo Olympics, Seiko Hashimoto, announced on June 8 that international journalists will be tracked by GPS while they are in Japan. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the Olympic Organising Committee’s (OOC) complete disregard for privacy.

The OOC has implemented this GPS monitoring system 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.

Before a board meeting to discuss the Games, Hashimoto 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.

The CEO of the Games, Toshiro Muto said, “We think this is an acceptable restriction given the current COVID situation…this is not relevant to the freedom of the press.” These restrictions only apply to overseas journalists, not domestic journalists. The GPS monitoring 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.”