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Page last updated at 14:01 GMT, Wednesday, 30 July 2008 15:01 UK

Web curbs for Olympic journalists

The BBC's James Reynolds tests the block

Journalists covering the Beijing Olympic Games will not have completely uncensored access to the internet, Chinese and Olympic officials say.

Sites related to spiritual group Falun Gong would be blocked, officials said. Journalists also found they could not see some news or human rights websites.

China enforces tough internet controls, but said when it bid for the Games that journalists would be free to report.

A senior international Olympic official called the move disappointing.

But International Olympic Committee press commission chairman Kevan Gosper confirmed that officials had been aware of it.

"There will be full, open and free internet access during Games time to allow journalists to report on the Olympics," he told the South China Morning Post.

"But I have also been advised that some of the IOC officials had negotiated with the Chinese that some sensitive sites would be blocked."

"I am disappointed the access is not wider," he said.

'Sufficient access'

During the Olympic Games we will provide reporters with sufficient and convenient internet access so the Olympic Games will not be affected
Sun Weide,
Beijing Olympic spokesman

More than 20,000 foreign media personnel are due in the Chinese capital to cover the Olympic Games, which begin on 8 August.

Many are already moving into the press and broadcast centres in Beijing.

On Tuesday, they were unable to access the website of Amnesty International as it released a report criticising China's human rights record.

Some international news pages and sites that dealt with issues such as Tibet were also inaccessible, journalists said.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao confirmed that websites relating to the Falun Gong spiritual movement were blocked.

"As to sites related to Falun Gong, I think you know that Falun Gong is a cult that has been banned according to law, and we will adhere to our position," he told a news conference on Tuesday.

He suggested that part of the problem with other sites could lie with the sites themselves.

The Olympic Press Centre in Beijing, pictured on 6 July 2008
The press will be accommodated in a high-tech facility in Beijing

"There are some problems with a lot of websites themselves that makes it not easy to view them in China," he said. "Our attitude is to ensure that foreign journalists have regular access to information in China during the Olympic Games."

But on Wednesday, a spokesman for the Olympic organising committee told the French news agency AFP that other - unspecified - sites were blocked.

Sun Weide declined to provide more details when asked by the BBC.

But he said reporters would be able to do their jobs.

"During the Olympic Games we will provide reporters with sufficient and convenient internet access so the Olympic Games will not be affected," he said.



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