Games organisers to lift internet restrictions

The International Olympic Committee and the Chinese organisers Bocog have agreed to lift all internet restrictions for media covering the Beijing Games, the IOC told Reuters on Friday.

“The issue has been solved,” vice-president Gunilla Lindberg said. “The IOC Coordination Commission and Bocog met last night [Thursday] and agreed. Internet use will be just like in any Olympics.”

The issue had caused a major stir days before the start of the August 8 to 24 Olympics with IOC officials insisting there would be no censorship and Bocog saying sensitive sites would remain blocked by the Communist authorities.

Although internet access will be free for reporters for the period of the Games, it is still tightly controlled for the rest of the country.
Sites related to spiritual movement Falun Gong, and other issues that are frowned on, are regularly blocked.

“In the last few days it’s been obvious that there have been sites blocked on the internet,” said IOC press commission chairperson Kevan Gosper.

“I have received unqualified assurances from president of the IOC Jacques Rogge and the chairman of the coordination commission Hein Verbruggen that we have not shifted our position.”

He said the unblocking of sites was already under way and these included Deutsche Welle, Amnesty International and the BBC’s China site.

“Already we put a team together in the IOC to work with Bocog to begin to open up sites which we believe are absolutely necessary to comply with non-censored reporting of the Games,” Gosper said.

“We are in the process of getting websites which were previously blocked unblocked.”

Gosper said some sites which were deemed by the government as subversive would continue to be blocked.

“There will be sites blocked that have to do with pornography or where in the opinion of the national government are sites which are subversive or against national interest, and that’s normal in most countries in the world.

In a statement issued late on Thursday, the IOC had said it was expecting Bocog to solve the issue and said it had always made clear that media representatives should have full access to the internet.

Bocog is responsible for directly running the Beijing Games under the auspices of the IOC, which sets general policy. The organising committee of an Olympics would generally work hand-in-hand with the IOC.

Amnesty International had condemned internet restrictions during the Games as “betraying the Olympic values”.

Games organisers had long pledged there would be no restrictions to journalists during the Games. - Reuters

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