While covering the Beijing Olympic Games, journalists will be accomodated in a high-tech facility (photo, from bbc.co.uk), where they will not have completely uncensored access to the internet, said Chinese and Olympic officials, as sites related to spiritual group Falun Gong would be blocked.
But journalists also found that they could not see some news of human rights websites.
Tough internet controls have been enforced by China, but the country said it bid for the Games that journalists would be free to report.
Though the move has been called disappointing by a senior international Olympic official, Kevan Gosper, International Olympic Committee press commission chairman, has confirmed that officials had been aware of it.
“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.
In order to cover the Olympic Games, that start on 8 August, more than 20 000 foreign media personnel are due in the Chinese capital, and many of them are already moving into the press and broadcast centres in Beijing.
On Tuesday, as it released a report criticising China’s human rights record, the website of Amnesty International was unattainable, as well as some international news pages and sites that dealt with issues like Tibet, journalists said.
‘Sufficient and convenient internet access’
Websites relating to the Falun Gong spiritual movement were blocked, has confirmed Liu Jianchao, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman.
On Tuesday, during a news conference he said : “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 suggested that part of the problem with other sites could lie with the sites themselves.
“There are some problems with a lot of websites themselves that makes it not easy to view them in China”, he said. “Our attitude is to ensure that foreign journalists have regular access to information in China during the Olympic Games.”
But a spokesman for the Olympic organising committee told the French news agency AFP on Wednesday that other, unspecified, sites were blocked.
Although when asked by the BBC, Sun Weide declined to provide more details, he said reporters would be able to do their jobs.
“During the Olympic Games we will provide reporters with sufficient and convenient internet access so the Olympic Games will not be affected”, he said.