International Olympic Committee

IOC criticised over internet restrictions

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 July, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 July, 2008, 12:00am

The International Olympic Committee has been accused of failing in its promise to ensure internet freedom for foreign journalists during the Games.

The accusation follows attempts by the South China Morning Post to access sensitive sites - including those mentioning Amnesty International, Tibet, the Falun Gong and the 1989 Tiananmen Square incident as well as the BBC's Chinese service - on the official internet network at the Main Press Centre.

Senior IOC officials had promised to ensure unhindered access from the opening of the Athletes' Village, on Sunday, until the end of the Games on August 24.

'The IOC has failed to negotiate [uncensored access] within the host city contract, and fulfil its promise of full media freedom during the Olympics,' Amnesty International spokesman Robert Godden said.

IOC press commission chairman Kevan Gosper said the IOC was 'preoccupied with ensuring foreign journalists had the ability to report the Games'.

'We might ask Bocog about this, but right now we want to ensure reporters have the technology needed to cover the Games properly,' he said.

Mr Gosper, who is also vice-chairman of the IOC co-ordinating commission, said: 'It is a fair point to say a report such as that by Amnesty [International] about the Olympics could be seen as needed in [an Olympics] reporter's work.'

Amnesty International released a controversial report on China and the Olympics on Monday.

In April, senior IOC officials said blocking the internet during the Games 'would reflect very poorly' on the host nation.

Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games spokesman Sun Weide has said reporters would be able to work freely.

'We guarantee to give reporters sufficient internet access to be able to write their reports,' he said.

The Foreign Correspondents Club of China also complained about the Olympic censorship.

'Unfortunately, this is an all too familiar situation for reporters in China, where the government tries to deal with criticism by blocking it out,' said the club's president, Jonathan Watts, the China correspondent for Britain's Guardian newspaper.

'It was supposed to be different during the Olympics, but we have heard several reports from journalists inside the media centre who are unable to access sensitive websites,' he said. 'This is not the free reporting environment promised ... It goes against IOC assurances that the press will be able to operate as at previous Games.'

The Post reported on Sunday that access was also restricted for athletes.