IOC puts pressure on Beijing over internet access


International Olympic Committee (IOC) inspectors have told Beijing organisers that the internet must be open for the duration of the 2008 Olympics.

The internet is routinely censored in China but Beijing is committed by its "host city contract" to giving the estimated 30,000 media expected for the Olympics the freedom to report as they have at previous Games.

"Even this morning, we discussed and insisted again .... that the internet is open at all times during Games time," IOC coordination commission vice chairman Kevan Gosper told reporters.

"There was some criticism that the Internet closed down during events relating to Tibet in previous weeks, but this is not Games time.

"Our concern is that the press is able to operate as it has at previous Games during Games time," added Gosper, speaking on the sidelines of the inspection of preparations for the August 8-24 Games.

"I'm satisfied that the Chinese understand the need for this and that they will do it."

The Australian, also chairman of the IOC's press commission, said blocking the Internet during the Games "would reflect very poorly" on the host country but was confident the Chinese would fulfill the obligations of their agreement.

"They've given us a huge commitment and changed their legislation extensively to enable the international press to report on the Games," he said.

"On all issues where that's been concerned they've lived up to the (host city) agreement so we don't see any reason why they'd step back from that now," he added.

New laws loosening the restrictions on foreign media in China went into operation on January 1 last year but are due to expire in October.

The Coordination Commission will hold their 10th and final series of meetings with Beijing organisers from Tuesday to Thursday. (Reuters)