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China clamps down on foreign news agencies

China has announced new controls over the distribution of news, photographs and graphics by foreign news agencies, further restricting foreign access to the already tightly regulated Chinese media market. The new measures took effect immediately upon being issued by the government's Xinhua News Agency.

WALLPAPER: A man reads a wall newspaper in Beijing. China has released new rules governing the domestic distribution of news content by international media organisations, further beefing up state control of the press. The rules would affect the Associated Press, Reuters and other foreign news agencies seeking wider access to the rapidly expanding Chinese market. Under a decade-old set of regulations, foreign news agencies were allowed limited distribution of financial data and other information — deals that the new rules also appear to rule out. (AFP/File/Peter Parks)

The regulations give Xinhua broad authority over foreign news agencies, requiring them to distribute news, photos and other services solely through Xinhua or entities authorised by Xinhua.

The rules would affect the Associated Press, Reuters and other foreign news agencies seeking wider access to the rapidly expanding Chinese market. Under a decade-old set of regulations, foreign news agencies were allowed limited distribution of financial data and other information — deals that the new rules also appear to rule out.

The tighter restrictions and the greater powers given to Xinhua underscore how the Communist Party's political agenda and Xinhua's business interests are coinciding, the Associated Press said. President Hu Jintao's leadership has sought to rein in a state-controlled media that has strayed from party dictates in search of profits and market share. Journalists and editors have been fired and arrested.

At the same time, Xinhua has been trying to transform itself from an agent of stodgy government propaganda into a worldwide competitor. The agency, founded in 1931 as the Red China News Agency, is trying to build a financial news service and has been trying to leverage Beijing's hosting of the 2008 Olympics to boost its sports coverage and photo services.

"We must also learn, borrow and make use of anything that is advanced, and beneficial to us, the aim being our own growth and expansion," Xinhua's head, Tian Congming, said according to the text of a speech given at a closed-door meeting earlier this year. "Only thus, can we truly hope to find the entry point for leapfrogging growth."

DOUR CONTROLLER: The Xinhua office in Beijing. The regulations give Xinhua broad authority over foreign news agencies, requiring them to distribute news, photos and other services solely through Xinhua or entities authorised by Xinhua. The rules would affect AP, Reuters and other foreign news agencies seeking wider access to the rapidly expanding Chinese market.

As part of its new powers, Xinhua will also police the distribution of news in the mainland by news agencies from Hong Kong — a former British colony now ruled by China but that operates under separate laws and with a free press — and in Taiwan, which Beijing claims but does not control.

These measures shall be applied mutatis mutandis to release of news and information on the mainland by news agencies and other news and information releasing entities of the nature of a news agency in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Macao Special Administrative Region and Taiwan, the report said.

Under the rules, news that disrupts "China's economic and social order or undermine China's social stability" will be banned as will news that undermines the country's "national unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity," Xinhua said. The text of the rules issued by Xinhua made no specific mention of foreign distribution of Internet or video news content, although such activities are restricted under other rules.

China has long sought to limit foreign distribution of news inside the country while exercising harsh limits on domestic media that are often arbitrarily enforced by vaguely worded state security rules that mandate harsh penalties, including long prison terms, for violations, the Associated Press said.

An Agence France-Presse report said, "Xinhua has long acted as the administrator of distribution in China of content from western news agencies, but in recent years as the country's media market has grown and developed many Chinese publications have sought direct subscriptions to overseas media organisations. Those subscribers have included websites as well as financial, banking and securities institutions and newspapers and publications focusing on fashion, sports, culture, entertainment, health and the environment."

"To subscribe to news and information services of foreign news agencies, a user in China shall sign a subscription agreement with a designated entity and shall not, by any means, directly subscribe to, translate, edit or publish the news and information released by a foreign news agency," the new rules said.

The new rules appeared designed to end any uncertainties over the government's determination to prevent foreign news businesses from operating in the Chinese mainland. "Foreign news agencies shall not directly solicit subscription of their news and information services in China," it said. Xinhua said the rules were meant to "promote the dissemination of news and information in a sound and orderly manner."

RELEASE HIM: Pro-democracy demonstrators and local legislators hold photos of jailed journalist Ching Cheong as they rally outside the Chinese Liaison office in Hong Kong. The recent jailing by China of two journalists shows Beijing is determined to maintain control in the run-up to key political meetings and the 2008 Olympic Games, experts said. China is the world's leading jailer of journalists, with at least 32 in custody and another 50 Internet campaigners also in prison. (AFP/Mike Clarke)

Other news banned by the rules included: information that may, "endanger China's national security, reputation and interests," that which may "violation China's religious policies or preach 'evil cults' or superstition," and that which might "incite hatred and discrimination among ethnic groups" or undermine their unity, it said. Also forbidden are "other content banned by Chinese laws and administrative regulations," it said.

The measures also specify penalties for violations in the releasing, distributing or using of news and information from a foreign news agency in China. If a foreign news agency violates the new rules, for example, Xinhua shall give it a warning, demand rectification within a prescribed time limit, suspend its release of specified content, suspend or cancel its qualifications for releasing news and information in China.

Xinhua can impose disciplinary penalty on violations by a staff member who, for example, fails to perform his duties of supervision and administration, or abuses his powers. Xinhua will have the right to select the news and information released by foreign news agencies in China and shall delete any materials mentioned in the items above. Domestic users "shall not, by any means directly subscribe to, translate, edit or publish the news and information released by a foreign news agency," the report said.

"If a foreign news agency violates the Measures, for example, Xinhua News Agency shall give it a warning, demand rectification within a prescribed time limit, suspend its release of specified content, suspend or cancel its qualifications for releasing news and information in China," it added. The rules impose "disciplinary penalties" on staff members who violate such restrictions, it said.

Date posted: September 11, 2006 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 9