China yesterday announced detailed controls on the distribution of news by foreign news agencies, banning all content that violates its own tight media restrictions.
The new measures, which took effect as soon as they were issued by the official Xinhua news agency, limit foreign news agencies to distributing news only through Xinhua or entities authorized by Xinhua.
The detailed rules ban the distribution in China of news content that disrupts "China's economic and social order or undermines China's social stability," Xinhua said.
The limits also ban news that threatens the country's "national unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity," it said.
The announcement said the rules would also apply to release of news and information in China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, and replace a 1996 Cabinet decree regulating distribution of financial information.
China has long sought to control independent distribution of news and information by foreign companies inside the country while exercising harsh limits on domestic media that are often arbitrarily enforced by vague rules mandating harsh penalties for violations.
Some foreign news groups have managed to set up arrangements allowing for limited distribution of financial data and other information -- deals that the new rules appear to rule out.
The text of the rules issued by Xinhua made no specific mention of foreign distribution of Internet, photo or video news content, although such activities are restricted under other rules.
The new rules appeared designed to end any uncertainties over the government's determination to prevent foreign news businesses from operating in China.
"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."
Other news banned by the rules included: information that might "endanger China's national security, reputation and interests," that might "violate China's religious policies or preach `evil cults' or superstition," and that might "incite hatred and discrimination among ethnic groups" or undermine their unity, it said.
Also forbidden is "other content banned by Chinese laws and administrative regulations," it said.
"Xinhua news agency has 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," it said.
Xinhua will conduct annual reviews to decide whether to renew business licenses of foreign media. Violations can elicit warnings or a grace period to correct mistakes.
Business licenses of foreign news agencies can be suspended or revoked if they break the rules such as publishing objectionable news or directly developing clients.
The rules also impose "disciplinary penalties" on staff members who violate such restrictions, it said.
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