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August 2 2008

Beijing Still Refuses To Free The Internet For Journalists

Ina follow-up to my original post, Beijing has opened the Internet to journalists slightly more, but it still isn’t what they promised.

While the International Olympic Committee has met with Beijing officials, they still have not gotten the unrestricted access to the Internet that journalists were promised.  According to the Telegraph, journalists are finding the sites of BBC’s Chinese language service, Amnesty International and Radio Free Asia amongst others.

However, Sun Weide, spokesman for the Beijing Olympics, was quoted on ChinaView.net with the reasons such sites would be blocked:

“If a few websites are difficult to browse, it’s mainly because they have spread content that is banned by the Chinese laws.”

Okay, fine, we all know the Chinese hate Amnesty International, but the BBC Chinese language service? It’s just another news service like any other, so what could be the reason for blocking that one?  I have also heard that they are blocking information about Tibet (surprise, surprise), but the BBC blockage still surprises the heck out of me.

Sun Wiede was also heard to say that he hoped journalists could respect the laws and regulations of China, and that isn’t my issue, for me it is that they said one thing and are doing another.  Why was their promise of unrestricted access and no one learns until they got there that this wasn’t true.  I think if it had been announced previous it would have still annoyed people, but people wouldn’t be quite as annoyed because they could have planned for it better.

The thing that gets me is that China is making a bigger story out of this it needed to be if they had just left the access alone.  Do they somehow think blocking these sites will keep them from being included in a story?  That is what the “Additional Reporting by…” credit is for in an article.  You write up your part, email it to your office, they can add away with information from those sites.

While I understand this firewall is fairly strong, there are ways to still have the information on your own:

– If they are allowed access to remote desktop systems such as GoToMyPc, you can log in to your home computer, browse any site you want via your desktop, and all that will be seen on your end is the IP of the site you used to access to your home system.

– Site stripping programs will make a complete copy of a website you download, just bring it with you on your laptop, or download it from your companies server.

– Screenshots are amazing things.

– People can read a website to you over the phone without much trouble.

There are more, but you get the idea.

Again, I do believe in the laws of a nation you are in, but when you promise one thing, but deliver another with no warning, of course people are going to be annoyed, and that ends up becoming the story.



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