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Beijing Olympics

Early Olympic Village settlers, media representatives face censorship, skyrocketing Internet charges

Yusof Sulaiman, eTN Asia/Pacific  Aug 01, 2008

Media representatives from around the world, early settlers at the upcoming Beijing Olympic Games have been told by the Beijing Organizing Committee of the 2008 Olympic Games (BOCOG) that there will be no free Internet access, in addition to censorship.

The censorship issue contradicts an earlier statement by International Olympic Committee (OIC) president Jacques Rogge, who had previously pledged there would be no press censorship at the Beijing Games.

Under the IOC bidding process, there is a specific requirement journalists covering the Games "shall be granted full and free Internet access."

International broadcasters, too, are still "in talks" with Chinese authorities to what extent they are allowed to film at the Games, in line with earlier promises.

In its report, the Voice of America confirmed that Chinese authorities are censoring journalists' Internet access at the main press center at the Beijing Olympics.

Despite being "concerned" at the Chinese action, IOC has acknowledged it cannot do anything as long as sites on sports are left open.

Expressing concern at the Chinese action, journalists have defined it as defying IOC rules and press freedom. "I will speak to the Chinese authorities and see what their reaction is," said Kevin Gosper, head of the IOC press commission.

Since the student demonstrations in 1989, the Chinese authorities have increased security checkpoints especially at Tienanmen Square, Beijing's iconic tourist destination.

Foreign journalists have confirmed access to web sites with the words "Tibet" and" Amnesty International" are blocked by the Chinese authorities, being classified as "sensitive websites."

BOCOG spokesman Sun WeideI has confirmed China will censor foreign journalists' access to the Internet. "Sufficient" access, however, will be permitted.

Citing it the "most expensive internet service in the world" the experienced travelers have been caught by surprise there is no free Internet access at the Olympics Media Village. "We are being charged a ridiculous amount for only one month."

Internet users are being charged between US$1,131 (512/512) to $1,716 (2M/512) for ADSL service, plus an additional $66 for a fixed IP.

"Not only do I have to deal with the Great Firewall of China, but also pay through the nose to use it, " said a media representative in jest, in his first posting on the internet reporting on his early experience in China. "The connections must have gone past the firewall."

General business Internet users in Beijing pay about $130 per month (for 2Mbps up/down access ), while internet cafes generally charge $1 per hour of usage.

Early Olympic Village settlers, media representatives face censorship, skyrocketing Internet charges
Image via Reuters

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