China unblocks some websites at Olympic media centre

August 1st, 2008 - 4:33 pm ICT by IANS  

DPA
Beijing, Aug 1 (DPA) China has unblocked some websites previously inaccessible to journalists at the Olympic Games main media centre after pressure from the International Olympic Committee, but other sites remained blocked. Journalists at the media centre were able to access sites for human rights advocate Amnesty International, US broadcaster Radio Free Asia, the China-critical Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily, and Human Rights Watch as well as the site of a group advocating Taiwan independence.

But access to other websites were still barred, including those for the human rights group Human Rights in China and organizations advocating the end of Chinese rule in Tibet and western China’s Muslim-populated Xinjiang region.

The websites for the outlawed spiritual group Falun Gong were also blocked.

The improved internet access at the media centre came after the International Olympic Committee (IOC), faced with pressure from the media and rights groups, met Beijing’s Olympics organizing committee Thursday.

“We understand some websites today are available,” said Emmanuelle Moreau, the IOC’s media relations manager. “We see that as very good news and as a positive step forward.”

But Moreau said IOC staff have not been able to see how many sites and which sites have been unblocked.

She declined to say whether further meetings would be held.

A spokesman for the Organizing Committee of the Beijing Olympic Games said China would abide by the promises it made during its bid to host the Olympics and facilitate the Chinese and international media’s reporting of the Games.

“The reporting by Chinese and international journalists through the internet is unhindered,” the spokesman said.

Internet access has become a major issue in the run-up to the Aug 8-24 Olympics. China had promised unfettered access for the more than 20,000 journalists coming to cover the Games and had come under criticism for backtracking on its promise.

The IOC also came under fire in recent days by human rights groups for caving in to China.

China’s organizers Thursday insisted their hardline measures would remain in force, arguing that banned websites were not accessible because they violated Chinese laws.

Outside the media centre, a variety of websites considered politically sensitive continued to be blocked.
DPA

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