press releases & Protests
Mr. Jacques Rogge
Dear Mr. President:
The World Press Freedom Committee (www.wpfc.org) —an umbrella organization representing 45 press freedom groups from throughout the world— expresses its deepest condemnation over the Chinese government’s decision to restrict Internet access to the tens of thousands of visiting journalists covering the Beijing Olympic Games. We also reject the International Olympic Committee’s lack of resolve to duly pressure the Chinese authorities to fulfill their promises in this regard.
According to countless news reports, including the BBC, the South China Morning Post and Spain’s El País, reporters at the Olympic Press Center have realized that their access to several websites has been blocked by the authorities. The banned websites include those of Amnesty International, the BBC Mandarin service and several others of human rights and press freedom organizations working on Chinese issues.
Many media outlets have quoted IOC’s Press Commission Chairman Kevan Gosper as saying that “There will be full, open and free Internet access during Games time to allow journalists to report on the Olympics." And almost in the same breath, Mr. Gosper said, “But I have also been advised that some of the IOC officials had negotiated with the Chinese that some sensitive sites would be blocked."
This new instance of caving in to the pressures of the Beijing censoring authorities flies in the face of the international community and the very Olympic values you are expected to defend, especially after the explanations given by the regime.
"There are some problems with a lot of websites themselves that makes it not easy to view them in China," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said. "Our attitude is to ensure that foreign journalists have regular access to information in China during the Olympic Games."
Then he added, "During the Olympic Games we will provide reporters with sufficient and convenient Internet access so the Olympic Games will not be affected."
It is obvious to us and to any other witness to this new outrageous press freedom violation that the Chinese authorities are mocking the moral principles that should guide the IOC’s actions and behavior. And what is the IOC response to this mockery?
“I am disappointed that the access to Internet can’t be wider,” lamented Mr. Gosper. “But I can’t tell the Chinese authorities what they should do.”
All the IOC needs to do is show the Chinese authorities the necessary resolve to demand the fulfillment of the promises they made in exchange for the honor and the privilege to organize the 2008 Olympic Games. If you once more fail to demand compliance from the Beijing regime, we will continue seeing the steep deterioration of the human rights situation in that country.
During the months leading up to the Games, the Chinese authorities have committed endless human rights violations, including almost daily detentions of journalists, writers, Internet authors and other individuals deemed as “threats to the image of stability and harmony” their tormentors wish to present to the world.
In a devastating report issued on July 29, Amnesty International, whose website is one of the blocked ones, said, “The Chinese authorities are tarnishing the legacy of the Games. By continuing to persecute and punish those who speak out for human rights, the Chinese authorities have lost sight of the promises they made when they were granted the Games seven years ago.”
It is too late to reverse that fateful decision. But it is not too late to urge you and all the IOC members to immediately demand full Internet access to all journalists covering the Games and the fulfillment of the regime’s promises to improve remarkably their human rights record.
E. Markham Bench