April 3rd, 2008 14:28 EST
Journalists to have free access to Internet during Beijing Games
The International Olympic Committee says it has received assurances from China's government that journalists will have free access to the Internet and that live television feeds will not be restricted during this year's Games in Beijing.
Hein Verbruggen, the head of the IOC inspection team in Beijing, told a news conference Thursday, that Internet censorship would be lifted for about 30,000 accredited and non-accredited journalists to report on the Games. Coordination commission vice chairman Kevan Gosper said the open access would not apply to China's 1.3 billion people.
Verbruggen said rights-holding broadcasters would receive live television feeds and would be free to use them as they wish. Recent reports said China planned to bar feeds from places such as Tiananmen Square. Monday's Olympic flame arrival in Tiananmen Square was broadcast with a delay.
Verbruggen said the IOC can not get involved in political disputes because it would expose the Games to boycotts and the IOC does not want to be involved with the internal politics of host nations.
The IOC official said athletes are free to speak out at the Games on any subject as long as they respect the Olympic charter. The charter prohibits athletes from using competition venues for racial, political, or religious statements.
Pro-Tibet activists, human rights lobbyists and other groups are trying to pressure China over a variety of issues, including the situation in Sudan's Darfur region.
Verbruggen's comments came on the same day that Chinese dissident Hu Jia was sentenced to three-and-one-half years in jail on charges of subversion. Hu has written articles criticizing the Beijing government's human rights record as it prepares to host the Olympics.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.