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  • » 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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    See also

    26/07/2008 CHINA
    Two weeks before the games, the Olympic "nightmare" continues for China
    Scuffles among the exasperated crowd in line for tickets, and security forces and policemen beating journalists who try to record the scene. In spite of government proclamations, the situation is becoming increasingly chaotic, and repression of the media is on the rise.

    17/10/2008 CHINA
    Beijing, internet users photographed and profiled
    A measure requires internet cafes in the capital to register their users. Government sources say that the intention is to prevent access to the web by minors, but in reality it seems to be a measure to monitor users and the sites they visit. Hopes for greater "post-Olympic" freedom disappointed.

    10/07/2008 CHINA - OLYMPICS
    Beijing toasts Olympic press centre, tightens censorship
    Exactly one month before the games, on Tuesday, July 8, the largest press centre ever created for the games was inaugurated. But the record numbers conceal the government's fears: a reporter from Hong Kong has been denied entry, and there is controversy over "real time" coverage of the events.

    20/03/2009 VATICAN - CHINA
    Beijing censors part of Vatican website in Chinese
    The pope's letter to Chinese Catholics remains inaccessible. But the control is practically useless. Much of the news from blocked Catholic sites - including AsiaNews - is able to pass through the firewall set up by the government.

    18/10/2008 CHINA
    "Freedoms" granted for Olympics extended for foreign journalists
    They can conduct interviews and travel "without prior authorization," although there is no guarantee that scrutiny of them will be relaxed. The permissions were set to expire yesterday. But the provisions do not apply to the Chinese media, and the international press is recalling hundreds of cases of intimidation and threats.

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