China relaxes internet bans for journos

By Olympics correspondent Shane McLeod and reporters

Posted 54 minutes ago
Updated 9 minutes ago

A Reporters Without Borders Chinese language website blocked in Beijing.

Sites like Reporters Without Borders were inaccessible earlier this week. (AFP: Frederic J Brown, file photo)

Internet restrictions for journalists at the Beijing Olympics appear to have been eased.

Chinese authorities have been blocking sensitive websites used by the international media, and using spyware to monitor internet use in hotels used by journalists and other visitors to Beijing.

But journalists working at the Games' main press centre in the Chinese capital can now access internet sites that were blocked earlier this week.

Those sites include the home page for human rights group Amnesty International and the BBC's Chinese language news homepage.

The sites remain blocked to people trying to access them through China's public internet.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd earlier said he would raise concerns with the Chinese Government about its censorship.

The chairman of the International Olympic Committee's media commission, Kevan Gosper, has complained that he was not informed of the decision to censor and says his reputation has been damaged over the issue.

Mr Rudd told Fairfax radio he will discuss the issue when he visits Beijing for the Games.

"I'm quite concerned by them, I saw the reports, also the comments by Kevan Gosper," he said.

"My attitude to our friends in China is very simple, they should have nothing to fear by open digital links with the rest of the world during this important international celebration of sport."

Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates meanwhile agrees that the controversy has "damaged" Mr Gosper.

"He clearly at some stage has been under the impression, and you showed me the bit of paper saying there would be restrictions," he said.

"He didn't know that, he's apologised. Others in the IOC say there are no restrictions. So we'll see. I'm finding it a little confusing."