IOC meetings on Internet access must be followed through with action

New York, July 31, 2008–The Committee to Protect Journalists is encouraged by the International Olympic Committee’s statement today that it has met with organizers of the Beijing Games about Internet censorship at the Main Press Center and that “the issues are on the table.” But CPJ urged the IOC to continue to pursue all avenues to ensure that full Internet access is provided without delay.

“This is just the first step in a process that must be followed through with a firm and unwavering commitment from all sides that full Internet access will be provided immediately at the press center,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “Anything short of that fails to meet the assurances provided by the IOC and Beijing organizers that the media would be allowed to report the news freely.”

In a statement issued today, the IOC said it has been encouraged by past assurances from Chinese organizers that the media would be given “the fullest access possible” and that “we trust them to keep their promise.” The IOC said it met with officials from the Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee (BOCOG) and the Chinese government, and that it expects BOCOG to publicly address the issue “very soon.” The full text of the IOC statement is available on the CPJ Blog.

The censorship issue surfaced this week when journalists discovered that certain Web sites were being blocked inside the press center. In particular, reporters seeking to cover an Amnesty International report critical of China’s human rights record found they could not access the organization’s site. The Web sites of numerous other human rights organizations are also affected.

Kevan Gosper, chairman of the IOC’s press commission, told reporters on Wednesday that his organization had entered into an agreement that allowed the Chinese government to block access to Web sites of the government’s choosing. In today’s statement, the IOC denied that such an agreement had been struck. “The IOC would like to stress that no deal with the Chinese authorities to censor the Internet has ever in any way been entered into,” the group’s statement said.