Beijing, IOC welcome media to the Censorship Games

Beijing has broken its promise to the IOC and to the media, according to the International Herald Tribune’s report from earlier this week.  When reporters arrived at the cushy digs provided by the Chinese government for coverage of the Olympics, they noticed a special addition to their Internet service … Big Brother.  And guess who was complicit in the arrangement:

The Chinese government confirmed Wednesday what journalists arriving at the lavishly outfitted media center here had suspected: Contrary to previous assurances by Olympic and government officials, the Internet would be censored during the upcoming games.

Since the Olympic Village press center opened Friday, reporters have been unable to access scores of Web pages – politically sensitive ones that discuss Tibetan succession, Taiwanese independence, the violent crackdown of the protests in Tiananmen Square and the sites of Amnesty International, Radio Free Asia and several Hong Kong newspapers known for their freewheeling political discourse.

On Wednesday – two weeks after its most recent proclamation of an uncensored Internet during the Summer Games – the International Olympic Committee quietly agreed to some of the limitations, according to Kevan Gosper, chairman of the IOC press commission, Reuters reported.

China told the media that they had provided “convenient and sufficient” Internet access, which of course means “convenient and sufficient” for Beijing, not the reporters. This is nothing more than a bait-and-switch scam, as the Chinese government repeatedly promised uncensored access to the Internet for at least the international media covering the Games.  With the media already arriving, the change comes very late for media organizations that have committed massive resources to their coverage of the Olympics.

No one should be terribly surprised by this crass, dishonest move by Beijing.  However, the IOC should be publicly shamed for selling out to the Chinese.  Not only did they award the Games to an oppressive regime, but they now have capitulated on freedom for the second time.  They had assured the media that they had arranged for free and full access to the Internet, and now they have become complicit in China’s oppression.

How does that fit with the ideals of the Olympiad?  The IOC has revealed itself as a collection of cowards and toadies.  Shame on them — and shame on the media outlets that don’t pack up and leave now, rather than contribute to Beijing’s propaganda event.