» 07/30/2008, 00.00
International Olympic Committee apologizes: we have "misled" the press
Beijing admits that even journalists will be subject to restrictions on the internet. The head of the IOC apologizes over broken promises, and concludes that what China says must be done. Meanwhile, the Japanese team is considering whether to come wearing dust masks.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Official apologies has been extended to journalists by Kevin Gosper, head of the press office for the International Olympic Committee, because of Chinese censorship of their websites set up for the Olympics.
The Olympic organizing committee (Bocog) has admitted that websites have been blocked that mention the spiritual group Falun Gong, banned in China as an "evil cult". For days, journalists have been complaining that their websites are being censored, but the Bocog defended itself by citing unspecified "technical reasons". Among the sites blocked are those that mention Tibet, Chinese dissidents, and human rights groups like Amnesty International and Reporters without Borders.
Now Gosper, in an interview with the South China Morning Post, has apologized to the press for "misleading" them for seven years, guaranteeing that "there will be full, open and free internet access during Games time to allow journalists to report on the Olympics". He admits that he knew that "some of the IOC officials had negotiated with the Chinese that some sensitive sites would be blocked". And he concludes that, in any case, "I can't tell the Chinese what to do", "you are dealing with a communist country that has censorship. You are getting what they say you can have".
Bocog director Sun Weide has responded clearly, saying that "we will provide sufficient and convenient access for foreign journalists to report on the Games". But he did not specify whether their e-mails and articles will be "controlled". On July 8, Sun had reiterated that "full access to the internet is extremely important for journalists". "For the journalists there will be, in the main Olympic structures, full access to the internet".
Various journalists have also complained that they have been mistreated by security agents, when they tried to interview people waiting in line last week to buy tickets for the competitions. One Danish journalist had his camera taken away and smashed on the ground while he was photographing the people in line.
Meanwhile, Takao Akama, a professor at Waseda University in Tokyo and a physician for the Japanese Olympic Committee, suggests that the athletes wear the dust masks used by construction workers, to protect themselves from pollution. There is less and less trust that the air in Beijing will really be less polluted during the Games, and health problems are feared from the high concentration of fine particles, exhaust gas, and industrial fumes. Beijing says the worries are "exaggerated". But in recent days, the city has been enveloped in a milky blanket of smog, which the rain and wind began to sweep away only yesterday.
Du Shaozhong, deputy director of the environmental protection office of Beijing, says that "the air is better by 20%". And he repeats the statistics according to which in July, Beijing had "25 days of clean air", even though it was almost always covered in smog.
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