Beijing's Olympic organizers have promised that the international media will be allowed to travel freely around China by the time the Games start in 2008, said Tessa Jowell, Britain's minister for culture, media and sport, on Tuesday.
The assurance -- given by the head of the Olympic organizing committee, Liu Qi (
Correspondents trying to cover sensitive stories in the provinces are frequently detained by police and sent back to Beijing.
Britain, Germany and other European countries have urged China to drop these controls and to grant the same freedoms permitted to Chinese reporters in London, Berlin and other Western capitals.
Jowell, who is visiting Beijing as the UK's Olympic minister, said she received a positive response when she raised the issue with Liu.
"He gave me a clear assurance that he would support unimpeded movement of accredited and non-accredited journalists to report not just on the Games but on China" as well, Jowell said.
It is unclear whether the relaxation will apply only for the duration of the Olympics -- when more than 20,000 journalists are expected to arrive in Beijing -- or constitute a permanent change.
Jowell said she hoped greater media freedom in China would be one of the lasting legacies of the Olympics.
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