Wednesday, July 30, 2008

IOC admits to deal with China on internet censorship

International Olympic Committee (IOC) officials have cut a deal with China to allow the blocking of sensitive websites from media during the Beijing Games, press chief Kevan Gosper said on Wednesday.

Gosper, chairman of the IOC's press commission, had previously said repeatedly that internet access for the 21,500 media accredited for the Aug. 8-24 Games would be "open".

"It has been my belief and I have expressed it consistently that the international media would enjoy free and open access to the internet at Games time for reporting the Olympic Games and that censorship would not be an issue," the Australian said.

"I regret that it now appears BOCOG has announced that there will be limitations on website access during Games time and while I understand that sensitive material not related to the Olympic Games continues to be a matter for the Chinese, I believe BOCOG and the IOC should have conveyed a clear message to the international media, in so far as this affects internet access, at an earlier stage.

"I also now understand that some IOC officials negotiated with the Chinese that some sensitive sites would be blocked on the basis they were not considered Games related."

China is committed to providing media with the same freedom to report on the Games as they enjoyed at previous Olympics and it loosened controls over foreigners reporting in the country in January 2007.

But attempts to use the internet at the main press centre to access the website of Amnesty International, which released a report on Monday slamming China for failing to honour its Olympic human rights pledges, continued to prove fruitless on Wednesday.

Other websites, most specifically those relating to the banned spiritual group Falun Gong, are also inaccessible to reporters.


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