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Great firewall of China may hinder blogging Olympians
|20 февраля 2008|
Athletes competing in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China, will be allowed to maintain personal blogs for the first time in history—if they can make it through the Great Firewall, that is. The IOC made the decision and issued a set of guidelines late last week, saying only that athletes are free to post what they want—with a few caveats. But even as the IOC gives the go-ahead to bloggers, the Chinese government continues to filter and monitor its own Internet traffic, severely limiting bloggers within the country.
As for the types of things the IOC will allow, athletes may only write about their own personal experiences (and not, say, a newsy-type post about an overall competition or information from third parties). They may also post photographs taken outside of official Olympic areas and their own photos taken inside, but that the photos must not contain any sporting action. Bloggers cannot put any form of advertising on their sites or have any affiliation with a specific company, the IOC said, and should keep their posts "dignified and in good taste," according to the guidelines.
"The IOC considers blogging... as a legitimate form of personal expression and not a form of journalism," the IOC said in a statement issued on Friday.
Unfortunately, China's Public Security Bureau doesn't usually take such a liberal view of "personal expression." Blogs from common hosts, such as Blogspot and WordPress, have been blocked off and on within China for some time now, so Olympic athletes looking to post about their experiences may not even be able to access their sites without some sort of contingency plan. That's not the only place they'll have to compromise, either—other taboo topics include the local police, government, as well as the likes of Falun Gong, Nazi Germany, and Tiananmen Square.
In other China-related news, Steven Spielberg decided last week to resign as an "artistic consultant" to the 2008 Olympics. The reason for his decision, Spielberg said, was because China had not done much to help resolve conflict in Sudan, resulting in genocide and other human rights violations. "With this in mind, I find that my conscience will not allow me to continue with business as usual," he said in a statement.
Human Rights Watch praised Spielberg's decision, saying that other corporate sponsors, governments, and other Olympic-related committees should put pressure on Beijing to improve human rights in China. "Olympic corporate sponsors are putting their reputations at risk unless they work to convince the Chinese government to uphold the human rights pledges it made to bring the Games to Beijing," Human Rights Watch media director Minky Worden said in a statement last week. "Human rights are under attack in China, and Olympic sponsors should use their considerable leverage to persuade Beijing to change policy."
But not everyone received the news well—particularly Chinese fans of Spielberg's work. China's Xinhua news agency reported that the public was angry about the decision, with some criticizing Spielberg for living in a sci-fi fantasy world and being unable to "distinguish dream from reality." The IOC appeared to shrug off the controversy as well, with IOC President Jacques Rogge saying that the Olympics are a sporting event, not an opportunity to demonstrate political beliefs. "[Spielberg's] absence will not harm the quality of the Games. The Beijing Games are much stronger than individuals," Rogge said.