New York, NY, July 30, 2008—PEN American Center today reacted with shock to the news that the International Olympic Committee apparently agreed to allow the Chinese government to censor the Internet at the Olympic Village press center in Beijing.

According to published news accounts, when foreign journalists first reported that the web sites of Amnesty International, the BBC, Radio Free Asia, and other organizations were blocked on computers at Olympic press venues, the IOC promised to investigate, noting that the Chinese government had pledged complete media freedom during the Games. Earlier today, however, Reuters quoted IOC spokesman Kevan Gosper as saying, “I . . . now understand that some IOC officials negotiated with the Chinese that some sensitive sites would be blocked on the basis they were not considered Games-related.”

“We condemn the censorship itself, and we deplore the apparent complicity of the IOC,” PEN wrote in a letter to IOC President Jacques Rogge.

“There is no question that this censorship violates both the letter and the spirit of the agreement between China and the IOC,” PEN continued. “We may debate whether the IOC has the mandate or the ability to hold the Chinese government to the general human rights pledges it made to secure the Olympic Games. But there can be no doubt that the IOC has the authority and the responsibility to demand that those pledges be honored at Olympic venues and facilities.”

PEN urged the IOC to reverse course immediately and insist that the Chinese government permit full and unfiltered Internet access at Olympic press facilities. The writers’ organization warned that the IOC, by allowing the Chinese government to impose its politically motivated, content-based censorship in Olympic facilities, was in danger of contributing to the politicization of the Games.

PEN American Center is the largest of the 145 centers of International PEN, the world’s oldest human rights organization and the oldest international literary organization. The Freedom to Write Program of PEN American Center works to protect the freedom of the written word wherever it is imperiled. It defends writers and journalists from all over the world who are imprisoned, threatened, persecuted, or attacked in the course of carrying out their profession. For more information on PEN’s We Are Ready for Freedom of Expression campaign, please visit

>> Click here to read PEN’s full letter to the IOC



Larry Siems, (212) 334-1660 ext. 105