Olympics Summer

Rogge accused of backtracking on media freedom

Some internet sites remained blocked at the main Olympic media centre in Beijing on Saturday, as IOC president Jacques Rogge was accused of backtracking on promises for free and open media access during the Games.

Some internet sites remained blocked at the main Olympic media centre in Beijing on Saturday, as IOC president Jacques Rogge was accused of backtracking on promises for free and open media access during the Games.

Olympic organizers unblocked some sites, but journalists are still denied access to others less than a week before the opening ceremony.

"Let me be very clear on this," said Rogge, speaking publicly for the first time since arriving in Beijing on Thursday. "We require that different media have the fullest access possible to report on the Olympic Games. And I'm adamant in saying there has been no deal whatsoever to accept restrictions.

"Our requirements are the same from host city to host city and remain unchanged since the IOC entered into a host city contract with Beijing in 2001."

Chinese officials have repeatedly promised open internet access for members of the media during the Games, despite regularly censoring content for citizens.

When the country was awarded the Games in 2001, the organizing committee's executive vice-president, Wang Wei, said, "We will give the media complete freedom to report when they come to China."

But journalists arriving in Beijing were upset earlier this week that they were denied access to sites such as Amnesty International, which has accused China of failing to live up to its promise to improve human rights.

Other sites dealing with Tibet, Tiananmen Square or the spiritual group Falun Gong were also blocked in the work rooms for journalists covering the Aug. 8-24 Olympics.

"I'm not going to make an apology for something that the IOC is not responsible for," Rogge said. "We are not running the internet in China. The Chinese authorities are running the internet."

Early Saturday, Rogge said at an IOC news conference that "foreign media will be able to report freely and publish their work freely in China. There will be no censorship on the internet."

IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies blamed Rogge's use of the words "no censorship" on the fact that English is not the Belgian's first language.

"There's been no change in the IOC's position," she said. "Again, I think we are trying to hang on every single word often spoken by people whose mother tongue isn't English. Let me be clear again: The IOC would like to see open access for the media to be able to do their job."

IOC press commission head Kevan Gosper has said that open reporting may not be possible with the Olympics in a "communist society."

"I guess there will be some debate as we move toward the games if there are sites that may or may not be open," Gosper said.

"And the line between what could be considered as a national-interest issue might be a bit blurred. But we'll work on it and we will deal with any potential grievances."

With files from the Associated Press

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