1 Aug 2008

Games organisers back down over internet restrictions

6:09 pm on 1 August 2008

The International Olympic Committee and Chinese organisers have agreed to lift all internet restrictions for media covering the Beijing Games.

"The issue has been solved," IOC vice-president Gunilla Lindberg said on Friday. "The IOC Coordination Commission and BOCOG met last night and agreed. Internet use will be just like in any Olympics."

The issue had caused a major stir days before the start of the Games, to be held from 8-24 August, with IOC officials insisting there would be no censorship and the Beijing Organising Committee for the Games (BOCOG) saying sensitive sites would remain blocked.

The IOC had said it was expecting Beijing organisers to solve the issue and said it has always made clear that media representatives should have full access to the Internet.

BOCOG is responsible for directly running the Beijing Games under the auspices of the IOC, which sets general policy. The organising committee of an Olympics would generally work hand-in-hand with the IOC.

Human Rights watchdog Amnesty International, whose website was among those barred in China, had condemned Internet restrictions during the Games as "betraying the Olympic values".

Games organisers had long pledged there would be no restrictions to journalists during the Games.

Although internet access will be free for reporters for the period of the Games, it is still tightly controlled for the rest of the country.

Sites related to spiritual movement Falun Gong, as well as those of a host of other issues that are frowned on by China's Communist authorities, are regularly blocked.