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China lifts some Olympic Internet restrictions

Latest update : 2008-08-01

Chinese authorities have agreed to lift some Internet restrictions for the upcoming Olympic Games following a meeting with the International Olympic Committee on Thursday night.

The Chinese government started on Friday to remove restrictions to certain Internet sites.

 

 

An AFP journalist in China stated Friday that the websites of human rights NGO Amnesty International, as well as that of Doctors Without Borders, were available in Bejing, whereas those run by dissidents, pro-Tibetans, and the spiritual movement Falungong are still blocked.

 

 

Confusion remains as to how the Chinese are defining “complete and free Internet access,” which appears not to be consistent throughout the world, even at the International Olympic Committee.

 

 

After the outcry brought on by the announcement  from China, which reverted to its earlier claim that it would allow “totally free” internet access to journalists during the Games, the IOC Vice President, Gunilla Lindberg, announced  Friday that the censorship issue was resolved.

 

 

"The IOC Coordination Commission and BOCOG met last night and agreed," she said, referring to Beijing's Olympic organisers. "Internet use will be just like in any Olympics."

 

 

This news was meant to ease tensions for those journalists who found they could not access their own media sites in Chinese, like Deutsche Welle or BBC.

 

 

However, the head of press relations for the IOC, Kevan Gosper, had a more nuanced reaction. He confirmed that certain media sites were blocked, but pointed out that the government was blocking more subversive sites.

 

 

"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.”

 

 

Eric Meyer, a freelance journalist in Beijing for the last 20 years and head of his own news site, was not surprised by the Chinese government’s attitude. He explains, “China is overwhelmed with billions of euros annually to censor its critics; it’s not in favour of authorizing totally free access, even during the 15 days (of the Games).  There is too great a risk that dissident sites outside the country will be accessible within the country.”

 

 

Access to normally blocked sites, like that of Doctors Without Borders, will be made available during the Games. But it is nearly certain that the “totally free” access promised by the Chinese will never take place, and the verbal sparring with the IOC will do nothing to alter this.

Date created : 2008-08-01

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