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Olympic Committee Feels Media Heat On Web Restrictions

BEIJING -- The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is facing mounting questions over Internet censorship, days before the Beijing Games, despite earlier pledges that its use would be unfettered.

While China has allowed access to some websites that were blocked earlier in the week, many sites still remain inaccessible to reporters covering the Beijing Olympics that start on August 8. On August 1, the IOC had said the issue had been resolved.

"We would like to see the greatest degree of openness," IOC communications director Giselle Davies told reporters.

"There has been no change in the IOC's position. The IOC would like to see open access," she said in response to several questions regarding the IOC's determination to push through what it had promised.

Some questions led with quotes from IOC officials that the Internet would be free.

"When there were problems on Wednesday, the IOC's team...met with the organising committee and asked if they could be resolved," Davies said.

"We can only encourage moving towards that openness and transparency."

That led to the unblocking of several sites, including human rights group Amnesty International, BBC China, and Deutsche Welle news sites.

The issue had caused a major stir days before the start of the August 8-24 Olympics with IOC officials insisting there would be no censorship and Beijing Games Organising Committee (BOCOG) saying sensitive sites would remain blocked by the Communist authorities.

Although Internet access will be relatively free for reporters for the period of the Games, it is still tightly controlled for the rest of the country.

Sites related to spiritual movement Falun Gong, and other issues that are frowned on, are regularly blocked. Some U.S. newspaper blogs were also blocked.

BOCOG is responsible for directly running the Beijing Games under the auspices of the IOC, which sets general policy. Amnesty International has condemned Internet restrictions during the Games as "betraying the Olympic values."