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HRIC Statement: China’s Foreign News Rules Spell Trouble for an Open Olympics

September 11, 2006

Human Rights in China (HRIC) is alarmed by the Measures for Administering the Release of News and Information in China by Foreign News Agencies (Measures) issued on September 10, 2006
by China’s
official Xinhua News Agency. These far-reaching new measures, effective
immediately, replace previous 1996 regulations that only dealt specifically
with “economic information.”


These Measures
are an authoritarian attempt to control news and information dissemination and the
access of China’s
users to uncensored news and information,
” said Sharon
Hom
, HRIC Executive Director. “T
he Measures reflect an
intensification of hard-line information control. It is not
an approach that respects individuals’ freedom
of expression, a free press and information transparency. It also
breaches
Beijing’s
commitment to allow journalists to freely cover the Olympic Games in 2008. These
latest Measures sound a wake-up call to the international
community that a closed, state-controlled Olympics is on the horizon.”


The Measures list
the types of information that
may not be released. These include news and
information that may
endanger
China's national security,
reputation and interests,
that violates China's
religious policies or promote “evil cults” or superstition,
and other content banned by Chinese laws
and administrative regulations.
“These Measures, both comprehensive and vague, echo the language in the PRC State Security and State Secrets laws. It provides
yet another legal tool for censoring
activities of not only foreign news organizations, but also
of all civil society groups engaged in information dissemination
. Removing
this information from the public arena, information that is necessary for the PRC government and civil society alike to address
serious social issues and corruption, only serves to stymie efforts to build a
more transparent and accountable government,” said Hom. “
These Measures will seriously
undermine the ability of international
media and other groups to report from and on China.


The Measures also give the power to select news for release solely to
Xinhua, and prohibit foreign news agencies from directly soliciting
subscribers. The Measures specifically state that they also apply to the
release of news and information inside mainland China
by agencies
in the Hong
Kong Special Administrative Region, Macao Special Administrative Region and Taiwan
. “Not
only the
international press community but also IT companies should be
very alarmed by these Measures,” said Hom. “Companies
that think they can benefit from the
China market, and that China users can
subscribe to their news and information services in a ‘free-market’ manner
, should
t
hink again!


A full English translation of the Measures is posted on People’s Daily
Online,
http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/200609/10/eng20060910_301349.html.