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  • On the Scene in Beijing -- IOC Admits China Will Censor Internet for Olympic Journalists


    BOCOG deputy media chief Sun Weide faces reporters with questions about internet censorship. (ATR)
    (ATR) A leading member of the IOC now says that journalists covering the Olympics in Beijing will face “limitations” over access to websites, despite past assurances from the IOC that media access to the internet would be unfettered during the Games.

    IOC Press Commission chair Kevan Gosper, now in Beijing, tells Around the Rings that he has been informed that the limitations will affect sites not directly related to the Olympic Games.

    In April, Hein Verbruggen, the chair of the IOC Coordination Commission for Beijing pointedly told journalists that they would have unfettered access to the internet, “full stop”.

    The issue has come to the fore after journalists found they could not access anti-China websites in the Main Press Center for the Beijing Olympics.

    Websites inaccessible to media include those of Amnesty International, the Free Tibet campaign, Tibet Government in Exile and sites relating to the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre in which several hundred protestors were killed by the Chinese army.

    Video footage of the bloody military operation on You Tube is also blocked. But BBC reports on the violent confrontation can be reached. Sites relating to Falun Gong, the anti-China religious group, are also unavailable to reporters.

    The internet censorship issue dominated questioning at a press conference that was supposed to focus on “Preserving Beijing’s Historical Landmarks”.

    Responding to the concerns, BOCOG deputy director of media Sun Weide denied that media freedoms were being restricted.
    Websites blocked in China include Amnesty International and portions of You Tube. (ATR)

    “The use of the internet in the MPC follows the rules and regulations of the IOC. That is to say we facilitate use of the internet for your reporting,” he said.

    “I don’t know anything about the specific websites,” Sun said, claiming he was unfamiliar with the Amnesty International website and the other anti-China sites detailed by reporters.

    “During the Beijing Games we will provide international reporters with convenient and sufficient access so that their reporting of the Olympics will not be affected,” Sun added.

    But his comments failed to satisfy reporters who had gathered around the BOCOG spokesman after the press briefing to seek clarification on the issue.

    In comments on Falun Gong, Sun made clear the position of the Chinese authorities on the spiritual group that is said to threaten social stability and spread superstitious thinking. Describing them as an “evil cult”, he interjected translation from an interpreter to emphasise that the group was “outlawed” in China.

    BOCOG’s denial of internet censorship problems comes a day after China’s foreign ministry rejected claims by Amnesty International that the country’s human rights situation has deteriorated in the build-up to the Games.

    Written by Ed Hula and Mark Bisson

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