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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

Who lied to whom on press freedom?

August 2, 2008

Jacquelin Magnay
The Age (Australia)
August 1, 2008

THE cosy deal between two of the world's most powerful bodies -- the
Chinese Communist Party and the International Olympic Committee -- to
strip away media freedoms reflects badly on both.

While restrictions on internet access are annoying for 10,000-plus of
the world's media gathering for the Games, they signify much more
than a simple frustration. Unfettered internet access was held up as
a prime reflection of China's commitment to "open up" to the rest of
the world. Instead, it has shown the reluctance of China's political
masters to allow its citizens exposure to global opinion.

We now know that when Beijing bid for the 2008 Games seven years ago
promising a new China, they lied. As I write, more than 150 websites
are blocked including BBC China and German public broadcaster
Deutsche Welle, journalists are being harassed and areas such as
Tiananmen Square are tightly restricted.

The tenor of the Games started to change a couple of months ago. A
few reporters considered "undesirable" to the Chinese authorities
were refused entry to the country. Then came the riots in Tibet. The
Communist Party abruptly imposed a new layer of bureaucracy on
Beijing Games organisers soon after the global demonstrations
involving the torch relay.

Executives with Beijing businesses were refused visas and the city
emptied of non-locals.

It was then that the International Olympic Committee realised it had
lost control of the Games. One of its most senior members, Kevan
Gosper, became a pawn.

For months, indeed years, Gosper has been saying that the internet
would be freely available and there would be no restrictions imposed
on the foreign media. And Gosper should know — he heads the IOC's
press commission.

But, critically, he is also the vice-chairman of the IOC
Co-ordination Commission for the Beijing Olympics. For seven years,
Gosper has been the second most senior IOC official in Beijing.

Hein Verbruggen, the Belgian IOC member and former head of the
international cycling union, was the co-ordination commission
chairman. It is difficult to believe that a move to restrict press
freedom was not signed off by another Belgian, IOC president Jacques Rogge.

Gosper is convincing when he insists that he didn't know of the deal
and he had not deliberately misled the global press. Other press
commission members also swear they have been completely misled on the issue.

Gosper says: "I am disappointed, but we are dealing with a communist
country that has censorship." These are the Beijing Games indeed.
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