Thursday, July 31, 2008

China faces international storm over Internet block

Newsinfo.inquirer: ....The World Association of Newspapers (WAN) called on the IOC to make China keep its commitment. The Reporters Without Borders watchdog said it was "yet another broken promise" by China since it was awarded the Games.

.....Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former Czech president Vaclav Havel were among international personalities to sign a letter calling on the IOC to ensure full access to information.

Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng and European parliament vice president Edward McMillan-Scott also signed the letter released through the Olympic Watch rights watchdog.

"We are concerned that the Beijing Olympics might simply become a giant spectacle to distract the attention of the international public from the violations of human and civil rights in China and in other countries with the Chinese government’s significant influence," said the letter.

The group said each country represented in Beijing should adopt a "Chinese prisoner of conscience" and "take action in their support".

The WAN said China had "reneged" on a promise for Internet freedom and condemned China as "the world's biggest jailer of journalists", saying at least 30 journalists and 50 "cyber-dissidents" were incarcerated.

"The authorities have not only failed to honor their pledge, but they have intensified their crackdown on journalists and others who seek to exercise their right to freedom of expression.

"Foreign journalists now reporting from China are regularly harassed and even expelled, as was the case during the March 2008 events in Tibet," said a WAN statement.

WAN, which represents 18,000 newspapers, called on the IOC "to hold China to its promises", and called on athletes, sponsors, media and others to "exert serious pressure on the Chinese authorities to cease their flagrant and persistent abuses of human rights."

Reporters Without Borders said it "condemns the International Olympic Committee’s acceptance of the fact the Chinese authorities are blocking access to certain websites at the Olympic Games media center in Beijing."

"The organization also condemns the cynicism of the Chinese authorities, who have yet again lied, and the IOC’s inability to prevent this situation because of its refusal to speak out for several years."

Padraig Reidy, news editor of Index on Censorship, a British-based media freedom website, told AFP: "The fact that this is happening shouldn't be the least bit surprising. China's supposed commitment to human rights which was supposed to have won them the right to host the Olympics has failed at even the most basic level in access for journalists."

Several newspapers around the world criticized China and the IOC.

The Berlin daily Tageespiegel said "Since Moscow in 1980, we have not seen a Games as unfree as those this year in Beijing. The IOC is responsible."

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

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