China Won’t Lift Web Blocks for Olympic Reporters

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Olympic organizers are backtracking on a promise about coverage of the Beijing Games, keeping in place blocks on Internet sites in the Main Press Center and venues where reporters will work.

On Tuesday, sites such as Amnesty International or any search for a site with Tibet in the address could not be opened at the Main Press Center, which will house about 5,000 print journalists when the games open Aug. 8. The blocked sites will make it hard for journalists to retrieve information, particularly on political and human rights stories the government dislikes.

“This type of censorship would have been unthinkable in Athens, but China seems to have more formalities,” said Mihai Mironica, a journalist with ProTV in Romania. “If journalists cannot fully access the Internet here, it will definitely be a problem.”

In bidding for the games seven years ago, Chinese officials said that the media would have “complete freedom to report.” And in April, Hein Verbruggen and Kevan Gosper, senior IOC members overseeing the games, said they had received assurances from Chinese officials that Internet censorship would be lifted for journalists during the games.

China routinely blocks Internet access to its citizens.

Gosper issued a clarification Tuesday. He said the open Internet extended only to sites that relate to “Olympic competitions.”

“This didn?t necessarily extend to free access and reporting on everything that relates to China,” he said.

Also Tuesday, the human rights group Amnesty International released a report saying China has failed to improve its human rights record ahead of the games.

Amnesty International said that the games, which were touted by Chinese and Olympic officials as a way to help expand freedoms in the authoritarian country, have instead led the government to muzzle critics in hopes of presenting an image of harmony and stability to the outside world.

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