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China: Restrictions on Foreign News Media Eased

(Oct. 30, 2008) On October 17, 2008, the State Council of the People's Republic of China (PRC) issued new regulations governing foreign news media coverage on its territory. (Regulations of the PRC on News Coverage by Resident Foreign News Agencies and Foreign Journalists [in Chinese], Central People's Government of the PRC official website, Oct. 18, 2008, available at http://www.gov.cn/zwgk/2008-10/17/content_1124261.htm.) The new regulations loosen government controls on foreign reporters, which had included requiring government permission for all of their interviews and travel within China.

China's Prime Minister Wen Jiabao had signed a temporary decree to loosen controls on foreign journalists for the purpose of promoting the Beijing Olympics, which was effective from January 1, 2007, to October 17, 2008. (Rules on Foreign Journalists' Coverage in China During the Beijing Olympic Games and Their Preparatory Period [in Chinese], Dec. 1, 2006, XINHUANET, available at http://news.xinhuanet.com/politics/2006-12/01/content_5417247.htm). The new regulations make those temporary easings of restrictions permanent from the date the temporary rules expired.

Under the new regulations, foreign journalists are no longer required to be accompanied by Chinese organizations in interviewing Chinese citizens and will not need government permission to travel to any “open areas” in China, said Mr. Liu Jianchao, head of the Information Department of the PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the primary government authority regulating foreign news agencies and journalists in China. Although the new regulations do not contain restrictions on traveling as the old foreign media regulations enacted in 1990 did, there are still certain areas in China “not open to foreigners.” Those include Tibet, where foreign reporters still need government approval to enter, according to Liu. (Text of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Answering Questions About the Regulations on News Coverage by Resident Foreign News Agencies and Journalists [in Chinese], XINHUANET, Oct. 18, 2008, available at http://news.xinhuanet.com/world/2008-10/18/content_10213909.htm.)

The new regulations further remove the requirement that resident foreign reporters renew their press cards annually. Resident foreign news media and reporters may now, with government approval, temporarily install radio communication devices,which was prohibited by the old regulations. Foreign news media organizations residing in China are still not allowed to hire Chinese citizens as their journalists. They are allowed, through government-assigned service companies, to hire Chinese citizens as support staff members. (Regulations of the PRC on News Coverage by Resident Foreign News Agencies and Foreign Journalists, supra.)