Press Group Plans Online Olympic Demonstration

A press freedom organization is planning to stage a protest in front of China's National Stadium in Beijing just before the Olympic opening ceremonies begin -- a virtual rendering of the stadium, that is.

Reporters Sans Frontieres (Reporters Without Borders, RSF) will hold an online demonstration on August 8, at 11:00 a.m. GMT, one hour before the opening ceremonies begin. Protestors can "gather" in front of an online version of the stadium, nicknamed the "Bird's Nest," holding an electronic placard displaying the slogan of their choice.

The online demonstration is planned in conjunction with protests to be staged in front of Chinese embassies in nine cities, including London, Paris and Washington, D.C.

RSF has been highly critical of China, especially during the Olympic period. On Wednesday, it sharply criticized the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for agreeing to some blocking of access to some Internet sites, including RSF's, calling it "yet another broken promise" from China regarding Internet and press freedom. "This situation increases our concern that there will be many cases of censorship during the games. We condemn the IOC's failure to do anything about this, and we are more than skeptical about its ability to 'ensure' that the media are able to report freely," RSF said in a statement.

Following an uproar after the IOC's admission Wednesday that it had agreed to allow some Internet censorship during the games, on Thursday a number of previously blocked sites, including the simplified Chinese version of Wikipedia, became accessible.

The group said that about 100 cyber-dissidents, bloggers, netizens and journalists are currently in prison in China.

Chinese authorities block access to Web sites deemed to be illegal or inappropriate, including anti-government material and pornography. Some Internet users who have criticized the government by posting statements or material online, such as Shi Tao and Huang Qi, have been arrested, prosecuted and sentenced to prison. Shi, who released an internal Communist Party document to an overseas news site, is currently serving a 10-year prison term. Huang was sentenced to five years in jail for founding the human rights Web site 64tianwang. He was re-arrested in June while attempting to report on events relating to the aftermath of the Sichuan earthquake and remains in police custody.

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