The International Olympic Committee has said that there won't be uncensored internet access at Olympic media venues.
In a statement Kevin Gosper, International Olympic Committee (IOC) press commission chair, said:
“I regret that it now appears BOCOG has announced that there will be limitations on website access during Games time (…). 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.”
In reaction to the IOC statement, Mark Allison, East Asia researcher for Amnesty International said:
"The International Olympic Committee and the Organizing Committee of the Beijing Olympic Games should 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."
"This blatant media censorship adds one more broken promise that undermines the claim that the Games would help improve human rights in China."
Foreign journalists working from the Olympics press centre in Beijing are unable to access the Amnesty International website. A number of other websites are also reported to have been blocked.
Amnesty International published the report "Olympic Countdown: Broken Promises" which evaluates the performance of the Chinese authorities in four areas related to the core values of the Olympics: persecution of human rights activists, detention without trial, censorship and the death penalty. They all relate to the 'core values' of 'human dignity' and 'respect for universal fundamental ethical principles' in the Olympic Charter. The new report showed there has been little progress towards fulfilling the Chinese authorities' promise to improve human rights, but rather continued deterioration in key areas.
In response to these and other related issues, a resolution calling on the Chinese government to end human rights abuses immediately passed the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday.The resolution, overwhelmingly approved on a 419-1 vote, comes just ahead of the start of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing .
Amnesty International spokesman Sam Zarifi says human rights activists, including those whose work is directly linked to the Olympics, are being locked up. Zarifi says the authorities are being overly sensitive to any potential criticism.
"The Chinese government has become so obsessed with projecting an image of stability and harmony that they won't allow any voice of disagreement, however reasonable or peaceful, so we see human rights activists being targeted," Zarifi said. "Even the promise that foreign media would be allowed to report completely freely as has been the case in previous Olympics, that has not been met."
Zarifi says The Foreign Correspondents Club of China, FCCC, has documented approximately 260 incidents of reporting disruptions this year, up from 180 in 2007.
The blocked sites will make it difficult for journalists to retrieve information, particularly on political and human rights stories the government dislikes. The censoring of sites such as Amnesty International or any search for a site with Tibet in the address can not be opened at the Main Press Center at the Olympic site, which will house about 5,000 print journalists when the games open Aug. 8.
"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."
IOC officials have said the Internet would be operational by "games time," which began Sunday when the Olympic Village opened.