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IOC President: No Internet Censorship Deal with China

The International Olympic Committee made no deal with China on limited Internet access for the media at the Beijing Olympics, IOC president Jacques Rogge said on Saturday in response to recent speculation.

Journalist sitting in front of a computer at the Olympic Press Center in Beijing

China lifted restrictions on some -- althought not all -- Web sites for foreign journalists

"There has absolutely been no deal, no agreement with the Chinese," Rogge told DPA news agency around IOC executive board meetings ahead of the August 8-24 Games.

Rogge also said that "we must improve the situation," the day after several Web sites such as Amnesty International were finally unblocked for the Olympic media after protests.

IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies did not speak of "uncensored" Internet access like Rogge in the past, but spoke of "furthest possible access" and said the Chinese had made "unprecedented moves" by unblocking some Web sites for the Olympic media.

IOC press commission chief Kevan Gosper said on Saturday that a working group from the IOC and the Beijing organizers BOCOG has been set up to deal with possible further problems on the issue.

Better access

IOC president Jacques Rogge

Jacques Rogge says the situation must be improved for the Olympic media

A number of Web sites are blocked by the Communist government for Chinese citizens but China promised that the Olympic media at least have better access.

The international media was furious when it noticed this week that Web sites were blocked in the Olympic media center, which prompted speculation of a possible deal or that the IOC had caved in to the Chinese.

"I was very unhappy on Tuesday," Gosper told a news conference. "Censorship was being applied. It was clarified at the most senior level."

Gosper said he met with Rogge after the IOC boss' arrival in Beijing on Friday and that IOC top officials Hein Verbruggen and Gilbert Felli then met with the organizing committee BOCOG which resulted in the unblocking of Web sites.

Journalists at the media center are now able to access sites for Amnesty, US broadcaster Radio Free Asia, Deutsche Welle, the China-critical Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily, and Human Rights Watch as well as the site of a group advocating Taiwan independence.

Partial lifting of restrictions

National Stadium in Beijing

The opening ceremony for the Olympic Games will take place at the newly built National Stadium

But access to other Web sites were still barred, including those for Human Rights in China and organizations advocating the end of Chinese rule in Tibet and western China's Muslim-populated Xinjiang region. The Web sites for the outlawed spiritual group Falun Gong were

also blocked.

Gosper also dismissed claims that the IOC was to blame over the issue.

"This came as a big surprise," Gosper said. "There was uncertainty from BOCOG. The IOC is not ineffective."

"In the end, BOCOG will fall in line with the IOC. It has been a fairly rough week. We are back on track," he said.

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