(AFP) – Aug 23, 2008
BEIJING (AFP) — International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge urged China on Sunday to maintain greater freedoms for foreign media after the end of the Beijing Games.
"The regulations might not be perfect but they are a sea-change compared to the situation before. We hope that they will continue," he told reporters on the final day of the Games.
China introduced guidelines in January 2007 that were meant to allow foreign reporters freedom to conduct interviews with consenting Chinese parties, rather than having to first seek government permission.
Journalists are also allowed to report outside the city for which they are accredited, rather than having to seek permission from authorities.
Rogge said he had raised with Chinese officials the extension of the rights beyond October, when they are officially due to end, and had been given "indications that this might be considered."
However reporters and press watchdogs said the supposed greater freedoms were not as great as characterised by Rogge, as they criticised interference against the foreign media during the Games.
The Foreign Correspondents' Club of China said there had been more than 30 cases of reporting interference in the country in recent weeks.
"The host government has not lived up to its Olympic promise that the media will be completely free to report on all aspects of China," it said in a statement.
Press freedom group Reporters Without Borders said the Olympics had been a disaster for freedom of expression in China, with the domestic press remaining under the strict control of the government.
"As we feared, the Beijing Olympic Games have been a period conducive to arrests, convictions, censorship, surveillance and harassment of more than 100 journalists, bloggers and dissidents," secretary-general Robert Ménard said.
Rogge said the IOC had successfully pressured Beijing organisers to unblock some websites for foreign media, after journalists arrived at the Olympics site to find they could not access sites such as Amnesty International.
Cai Wu, the minister of the State Council Information Office, said late last year that the reporting rules may be extended beyond October, if it was in China's interest.
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