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Beijing journalists face Great Firewall of China

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Foreign journalists reporting at the Beijing Olympics will not be permitted unrestricted internet access, Games officials have confirmed.

China had previously promised to allow overseas media to bypass domestic restrictions as part of its winning Olympic bid seven years ago.

Access to websites about banned spiritual movement Falun Gong and those with information on the Tiananmen Square Massacre and the Tibetan government in exile are blocked in China.

But organising committee spokesman Sun Weide told journalists yesterday, many of whom had already noted the limited internet access, that officials were effectively reversing that pledge.

"During the Olympic Games we will provide sufficient access to the internet for reporters," he said.

inthenews.co.uk understands that during Mr Sun's press conference foreign reporters at the Games, who number up to 20,000, realised they were unable to access a host of websites, including that of human rights organisation Amnesty International UK.

Yesterday Amnesty International UK reiterated comments made by Olympic bid chief Wang Wei in 2001 when he said: "We will give the media complete freedom to report when they come to China."

The group's campaigns director Tim Hancock said he was "extremely disturbed" at the reports over internet access from Beijing.

"The internet repression endured by Chinese web users will now be imposed on visiting journalists as well," he told inthenews.co.uk.

"This is another example of the Chinese government's broken promises when it comes to respecting human rights at the Olympics. They assured the world that there would be 'complete media freedom' for the Games but, as in many other areas, they haven't delivered.

The reversal is embarrassing for the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which had previously insisted China would abide by its promises on internet access.

Kevin Gosper, head of the IOC's press commission, told the AFP news agency: "I will speak with the Chinese authorities to advise them of the restraints and to see what their reaction is."

In further comment Mr Hancock added: "The 'silent diplomacy' of the IOC and the international community simply hasn't worked. It's time for world leaders and the Olympic movement to speak out publicly and demand that China lifts these controls."
© Adfero Ltd
30 July 2008 11:25 GMT

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