Olympics Officials, Beijing Made Deal On Web Limits

While the Chinese government promised that the foreign media would be free to cover more than just the Olympics while in China, Internet censorship will still be in place. The International Olympic Committee admitted it cut a deal with Beijing to censor Internet content. That has outraged human rights and press groups.

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Members of the foreign media now in Beijing for the Olympic games are finding that the Chinese government is not honoring its pledge to allow relatively free access to the country. Human rights and press groups have expressed outrage after the International Olympic Committee admitted it had cut a deal with Beijing to censor Internet content in the Olympic Village.

NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports from Beijing.

ANTHONY KUHN: Both Beijing and the IOC had previously insisted that foreign media would be free to report on all of China during the Olympics, not just the Games. Yesterday, IOC press chief Kevan Gosper said he apologized if he had misled the media into thinking that there would be no Internet censorship. He explained that the IOC's powers were limited in dealing with the Beijing Games Organizing Committee, or BOCOG.

Mr. KEVAN GOSPER (Press Chief, IOC): BOCOG has advised us that there are certain sites that they are blocking which are non-related to the Olympic Games. Our preoccupation is to ensure that the international media can report on the Olympic Games. And anything beyond that is a matter for the Chinese authorities.

KUHN: Gosper also said that the censorship was agreed on by both BOCOG and the IOC. Asked if he was pleased about the results, he responded...

Mr. GOSPER: I would like it to be more open than that, and that's what I've said all the way through, but we cannot tell the Chinese government what their position is on communications.

KUHN: Back on April 1st, China's government gave notice that access to the Internet during the Olympics would be limited. It said that some Internet information violated China's laws and that blocking it was in line with international practice.

Today, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao repeated that China was committed to Olympic reporting rules, giving foreign journalists freedom to travel and conduct interviews without official approval.

Mr. LIU JIANCHAO (Chinese Foreign Ministry): (Chinese spoken)

KUHN: We're determined to enforce the new rules governing foreign media during the Olympics, he said, and we will continue to push for their full, effective and accurate implementation.

Earlier this year, observers had seen some reasons to hope that China would display extra openness with the media during the Olympics. Foreign and Chinese reporters that enjoyed some initial leeway in reporting the May 12th earthquake in Sichuan. And a couple of prominent Chinese journalists had been released from prison early.

But political commentator Jiang Xiuhua(ph) said that the government may have suffered a loss of confidence that made it change its mind about opening up.

Mr. JIANG XIUHUA (Political Commentator): (Chinese spoken)

KUHN: After the March riots in Tibet and the May earthquake, he said, the government seems to have felt that the cost of increased media freedoms was too high and was not beneficial to its rule. Jiang added that he had just come from a meeting with police officers, who warned him not to talk to foreign reporters.

Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Beijing.

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