IOC not to blame for internet controversy - working group set up

Society Materials 2 August 2008 08:46 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - Chinese organizers and not the International Olympic Committee were to blame for this week's internet controversy around blocked websites at the Beijing Games, the IOC's media director Kevan Gosper said on Saturday.

"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 with Jacques Rogge after the IOC boss' arrival in Beijing on Friday and that IOC top officials Hein Verbruggen and Gilbert Felli then met with the organizing committee BOCOG which resulted in the unblocking of websites. A working group with members from the IOC and and BOCOG has been set up to deal with further media complaints on the issue in the final countdown to the August 8-24 Games.

Journalists at the media centre are now 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 international media was furious when it noticed this week that websites were blocked in the Olympic media centre.

That appeared to be contrary to promises made by the Chinese when they got the Games that internet censorship in the country would not apply to the Olympic media.

BOCOG suggested that there would be no unblocking and that this was agreed upon with the IOC. Some IOC statements suggested that the IOC had caved in to China but Gosper dismissed that.

"This came as a big surprise. There was uncertainty from BOCOG," Gosper said. "The IOC is not ineffective."

Gosper admitted that was "a blurred line" around some websites and issues and that there was "a considerable trauma" from the host country China which came under fire for its dealing with unrest in Tibet and also had to suffer from a major earthquake and Olympic security threats.

Gosper also said that the issue had not strained relations between BOCOG and the IOC. "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.