IOC bowed to China on censorship - Amnesty

 

Amnesty International today accused the International Olympic Committee (IOC) of caving into China over Internet censorship.

Some IOC officials agreed a deal to allow China to block sensitive websites, despite promises of unrestricted access, IOC press chief Kevan Gosper admitted today.

In a statement released this afternoon, Mark Allison, East Asia researcher for Amnesty, called on the IOC and the Organizing Committee of the Beijing Olympic Games to fulfil their commitment to full media freedom and provide "immediate uncensored internet access" at Olympic media venues.

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

Amnesty International Irish section executive director Colm O'Gorman added: “World leaders who attend the Games need to raise their voices publicly for human rights in China and in support of individual Chinese human rights activists."

"If our Government, represented at the Games by Minister Martin Cullen, fails to do so it could be seen as tolerating human rights abuses in China and in particular those associated with the staging of the Games themselves.”

China had committed to providing media with the same freedom to report on the Games as at previous Olympics, but journalists this week complained of finding access to some sites, including Amnesty International, blocked.

"I regret that it now appears BOCOG has announced that there will be limitations on website access during Games time," IOC press chief Kevan Gosper said today, referring to Beijing's Olympic organisers.

"I also now understand that some IOC officials negotiated with the Chinese that some sensitive sites would be blocked on the basis they were not considered Games related," he said.

Journalists at the main press centre have been unable to access the website of Amnesty International, which released a report on Monday, Olympic Countdown: Broken Promises, condemning China for failing to honour its Olympic human rights pledges.

Other websites, including those relating to the banned spiritual group Falun Gong, are also blocked.

In a statement, Amnesty said the IOC “has on many occasions" highlighted the easing of restrictions on foreign media in China as an example of the promised improvement in human rights through the hosting of the Olympics.

“On  April 1st, Kevin Gosper said that the continued blocking of some websites would ‘reflect very poorly’ on the hosts. On July 17th, Jacques Rogge, IOC President, said ‘there will be no censorship of the internet,” the statement added.

Beijing Games organisers said censorship would not stop journalists doing their jobs in reporting on the Olympics. "We are going to do our best to facilitate the foreign media to do their reporting work through the Internet," a spokesman said.

Nonetheless, the admission that the Internet will be partly censored is sure to lead to more criticism for China, which is already under attack over air quality in Beijing.

Chinese experts said today they were working on emergency plans to keep Olympic skies clear, including keeping cars off the roads in nearby provinces, but did not expect to need them.

Additional reporting Reuters