Amnesty accuses IOC of caving in to China's internet censorship

Society Materials 31 July 2008 09:59 (UTC +04:00)

Amnesty International has accused the International Olympic Committee (IOC) of caving in to China's demands on Internet censorship and urged the IOC and Beijing to provide unfettered Internet access as they had promised, the dpa reported.

"The International Olympic Committee and the Organizing Committee of the Beijing Olympic Games should fulfil their commitment to full media freedom and provide immediate uncensored internet access at Olympic media venues," said Mark Allison, East Asia researcher for the London-based rights group, in a statement issued late Wednesday.

"Censorship of the internet at the Games is compromising fundamental human rights and betraying the Olympic values," Allison said.

The organization was reacting to statements by Kevin Gosper, chair of the IOC's press committee that "some IOC officials negotiated with the Chinese that some sensitive sites would be blocked on the basis they were not considered Games related." In Gosper's statements to the South China Morning Post Wednesday, he also said the IOC could not tell China what to do.

Amnesty, however, noted that on July 17 Jacques Rogge, the IOC's president, said "there will be no censorship of the internet."

"This blatant media censorship adds one more broken promise that undermines the claim that the Games would help improve human rights in China," said Allison.

Beijing authorities have blocked access to internet websites considered politically sensitive or critical of China, including sites for Amnesty and other human rights groups, as well as websites for exiled Tibetan groups and the banned Falungong spiritual group.

Some foreign media websites, such as the BBC's Chinese-language service, the German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle, the Hong Kong-based Apple Daily and the Taiwan-based Liberty Time, also are blocked.

The IOC said late Wednesday its officials are meeting with Beijing Olympic organisers to try to resolve the problem.

"We've learned there are issues accessing some websites and the IOC is talking with the organizers to see what may need to be rectified," Sandrine Tonge, the IOC's media relations coordinator said in an email to Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa late Wednesday."The IOC has always encouraged the Beijing 2008 organizers to provide media with the fullest access possible to report on the Olympic Games, including access to the internet. BOCOG has said 'sufficient and convenient' internet access will be provided for the media to cover the Games," said Tonge.

The French press freedom organization Reporters Without Borders on Wednesday also condemned the Chinese authorities for restricting journalists' access to the internet and slammed the inability of the IOC to stop them.

Freedom House, a nonprofit organization which promotes democracy, said earlier this month that China has also put more pressure on Chinese journalists in recent days, banning them from covering sensitive issues.