No internet censorship deal with China, says IOC (Lead)

August 2nd, 2008 - 4:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Aug 2 (DPA) The International Olympic Committee made no deal with China on limiting Internet access to the media at the Beijing Olympics, IOC president Jacques Rogge said Saturday. “There has absolutely been no deal, no agreement with the Chinese,” Rogge told DPA around IOC executive board meetings ahead of the Aug 8-24 Games.

Rogge also said that “we must improve the situation”, the day after several websites such as Amnesty International were finally unblocked for the Olympic media after protests.

IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies did not speak of “uncensored” Internet access like Rogge in the past, but spoke of “furthest possible access” and said the Chinese had made “unprecedented moves” by unblocking some websites for the Olympic media.

IOC press commission chief Kevan Gosper said earlier Saturday that a working group from the IOC and the Beijing organisers BOCOG has been set up to deal with possible further problems on the issue.

A number of websites are blocked by the Communist government for Chinese citizens but China promised that the Olympic media at least have better access.

The international media was furious when it noticed this week that websites were blocked in the Olympic media centre, which prompted speculation of a possible deal or that the IOC had caved in to the Chinese.

“I was very unhappy on Tuesday. Censorship was being applied. It was clarified at the most senior level,” Gosper told a news conference.

Gosper said he met Rogge after the IOC boss’ arrival in Beijing on Friday and that IOC top officials Hein Verbruggen and Gilbert Felli then met the organising committee BOCOG that resulted in the unblocking of websites.

Journalists at the media centre are now able to access sites for Amnesty, 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 Human Rights in China and organisations 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.

Gosper also dismissed claims that the IOC was to blame over the issue.

“This came as a big surprise. There was uncertainty from BOCOG. The IOC is not ineffective.”

“In the end BOCOG will fall in line with the IOC. It has been a fairly rough week. We are back on track,” said Gosper.

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