When China’s Olympic organizers bid for the Olympics in 2001, they assured Western media organizations that they would not filter reporters’ Internet usage at the Main Press Center and other areas where the media would be stationed. But that’s what China said; it’s not what China has done.

As of July 29th, websites such as Amnesty International could not be accessed from the Main Press Center in Beijing. Internet searches containing terms like “Tibet” were blocked too. Several journalists using the Internet at press stations have complained about slow Internet speeds. Some speculate that Chinese government officials are intentionally slowing down the Internet to stifle reporters’ Internet usage. Media organizations like NBC, which paid approximately $200 million for the rights to cover the games, as well as smaller media organizations, have complained about the red tape and constantly changing rules that have beset reporters’ efforts to cover newsworthy events in China other than the Olympics.

Seven years ago when China bid for the Olympics, it promised the International Olympic Committee that reporters would have “complete freedom to report.” Apparently, China intended this assurance to mean that reporters would have complete freedom to report on the Olympic games, but not necessarily on other aspects of life in China.

China has a self-proclaimed 253 million Internet users, and, if true, that number means that China has surpassed the United States as the nation with the most people online. But Internet censorship is business as usual for China’s citizens as the government routinely blocks Internet access to sites it considers subversive.

The International Olympic Committee should have secured a more robust assurance from Chinese officials that would have required China to grant reporters unfettered Internet access. By not securing such an promise, the International Olympic Committee missed an opportunity to nudge China toward more Internet freedom for its citizens. If the Committee had required China to grant journalists unrestricted Internet access as a precondition for obtaining the Olympics, the Chinese government would now have to work harder to justify censoring its own citizens’ Internet usage.

Anonymous JETL member

2 Responses to China Censors Media's Internet Access at the Olympics

  1. […] Freedom of the press is a fascinating topic when it comes to China. The biggest and fastest developping country in the world is currently depriving its entire population from some of the world’s most important news. Don’t go looking for an objective article about all the foreigners’ support for an independant Tibet in the China Daily. What matters in the chinese media industry is what the chinese government thinks and says. […]

  2. kikkers says:

    I was in China until 1 August (until I got thrown out – couldn’t renew my visa). Websites like BBC, blogspot, even wikipedia and google worked, for the first time since I came (last year November). That’s a move in the right direction I guess. I only wonder for how long…

    I’d like to ask another question regarding censorship. In the West (EU and USA), most of the news we see of China seems to be negative. Of course not everything in China is bad. Lots of good stuff happens. Why don’t ‘our’ media cover this too? Is our media as subjective as the Chinese? Or is it because people only like to see/read news that affirms their concept of China as an ‘evil empire’? Most things we see and read are true stories, based on facts, but they just leave out so much else…

    In China, I could see only positive news about China (see chinadaily.cn). It makes me sick. Who is right, who is wrong? What is the truth? What happened to independent journalism?

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