Just never ceases to amaze me how the "West" will bend over backwards to apease repressive regimes.
IOC agrees to Internet blocking at the Games
By Andrew Jacobs Published: July 30, 2008
BEIJING: The Chinese government confirmed Wednesday what journalists arriving at the lavishly outfitted media center here had suspected: Contrary to previous assurances by Olympic and government officials, the Internet would be censored during the upcoming games.
Since the Olympic Village press center opened Friday, reporters have been unable to access scores of Web pages - politically sensitive ones that discuss Tibetan succession, Taiwanese independence, the violent crackdown of the protests in Tiananmen Square and the sites of Amnesty International, Radio Free Asia and several Hong Kong newspapers known for their freewheeling political discourse.
On Wednesday - two weeks after its most recent proclamation of an uncensored Internet during the Summer Games - the International Olympic Committee quietly agreed to some of the limitations, according to Kevan Gosper, chairman of the IOC press commission, Reuters reported.
Gosper said that he regretted the limitations but that "IOC officials negotiated with the Chinese that some sensitive sites would be blocked on the basis they were not considered Games related."
A government spokesman initially suggested the problems originated with the site hosts, but on Wednesday, he acknowledged that journalists would not have unfettered Internet use during the Games, which begin Aug. 8.
"It has been our policy to provide the media with convenient and sufficient access to the Internet," said Sun Weide, the chief spokesman for the Beijing Olympics organizing committee. "I believe our policy will not affect reporters' coverage of the Olympic games."
The Chinese government and the IOC had repeatedly suggested up until two weeks ago that the 20,000 journalists covering the games would have full Internet access. Jacques Rogge, the International Olympic committee president, declared that the foreign media would be able to report and publish its work freely in China and that the Internet would be uncensored.
The revelation that politically sensitive Web pages will be off limits to foreign reporters comes at a time of growing skepticism about the government's commitment to pledges made when it won the right to stage the games in 2001: that it would improve its record on human rights and provide athletes with clean air.
Despite a litany of measures that include restricting private vehicles and shuttering factories, Beijing's skyline in recent days has been shrouded in a thick haze, prompting some hang-wringing over whether the government can deliver on its promise of a "blue skies" Olympics.
In recent months, human rights advocates have accused Beijing of stepping up the detention and surveillance of those it fears could disrupt the Games. On Tuesday, President George W. Bush privately met with five Chinese dissidents at the White House to drive home his dissatisfaction with the pace of change. Bush, who leaves for the opening ceremonies in just over a week, also pressed China's foreign minister to ease political repression.
Concerns about free access to the Internet in Beijing had intensified Tuesday, when Western journalists working at the main press center in Beijing said they could not get to Amnesty International's Web site to see the group's critical report on China's failure to improve its human rights record ahead of the Olympics.
Journalist groups complained last week about treatment from security officials while trying to interview people waiting in line for Olympic tickets, according to Bloomberg News.
Jonathan Watts, president of The Foreign Correspondents Club of China, said he was disappointed that Beijing had failed to honor its agreement to temporarily remove the elaborate firewall that prevents ordinary Chinese from fully using the Internet. "Obviously if reporters can't access all the sites they want to see, they can't do their jobs," he said. "Unfortunately, such restrictions are normal for reporters in China, but the Olympics were supposed to be different."
Sandrine Tonge, the IOC media relations coordinator, said the organization would press the Chinese authorities to reconsider the limits.
How to circumvent censors
Reporters Without Borders is encouraging journalists covering the Beijing Olympics to skirt censorship with tips on how to get around firewalls, lock computer files and find safe translators, The Associated Press reported from Paris.
In a guide published on the Internet on Wednesday, the organization advised reporters to conduct phone calls and write e-mail messages with the knowledge that they might be monitored.
The new guide will probably help only journalists who have not yet left for Beijing: The press freedom group says its Web site, Reporters sans frontiÃ¨res - Reporters Without Borders - Reporteros sin fronteras
, remains blocked in China. The country has backed away from a promise to lift all Internet blocks on foreign media.
IOC agrees to Internet blocking at the Games - International Herald Tribune