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Olympic journalists face web restraints

Journalists covering the Beijing Games will not have uncensored internet access, Chinese and Olympic officials have confirmed.

Journalists covering the Beijing Games will not have uncensored internet access, Chinese and Olympic officials have confirmed.

Foreign media had complained about being unable to access politically sensitive websites such as that of Amnesty International, which on Tuesday accused China of failing to live up to its promise to improve human rights.

China is known for rigid internet controls, but said during the Olympics bidding process that foreign media would have "complete freedom to report" at the Summer Games, which begin Aug. 8.

However, the International Olympic Committee's press commission chair, Kevan Gosper, said this week that the promise will apply only to sites related to "Olympic competitions."

Journalists reported Tuesday that non-Chinese government websites relating to Tibet were inaccessible, among others.

Some sites blocked

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao confirmed that sites relating to the Falun Gong spiritual movement were blocked.

"As to sites related to Falun Gong, I think you know that Falun Gong is a cult that has been banned according to law, and we will adhere to our position," he told a news conference on Tuesday.

Gosper said he was disappointed by the lack of unfettered web access for the estimated 20,000 foreign media personnel expected in Beijing, but that the IOC was aware of the move.

"There will be full, open and free internet access during Games time to allow journalists to report on the Olympics," he told the South China Morning Post. "But I have also been advised that some of the IOC officials had negotiated with the Chinese that some sensitive sites would be blocked.

"I am disappointed the access is not wider," he said.

Paris-based Reporters Without Borders published a guide Wednesday encouraging journalists covering the Beijing Olympics to skirt censorship with tips on how to get around firewalls, lock computer files and find safe translators.

The guide advised reporters to conduct phone calls and write e-mails with the knowledge that they may be monitored.

The Olympics end Aug. 24.

With files from the Associated Press