The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China is concerned that recently announced Xinhua News Agency regulations enhance censorship and hinder the free flow of accurate information which is crucial to a market-based economy.
The sweeping regulations, announced without consultation with the parties involved, negate a previous government commitment to allow some foreign providers to distribute financial information directly to Chinese customers. As such they represent a step backward.
Although the regulations may not have immediate impact on the work of foreign correspondents based in China, they are seen as part of China’s heightened efforts to control media coverage through administrative means and through the detention and trials of journalists.
Publicized on Sept. 10, the regulations state that foreign news agencies must distribute news and related material solely through Xinhua. As part of its role as “gatekeeper,” Xinhua reported that it would censor or delete content deemed offensive if it falls into any of close to a dozen categories – including content defined vaguely as that which “undermines social ethics of the fine cultural traditions of the Chinese nation.”
By announcing the “Measures for Administering the Release of News and Information in China by Foreign News Agencies,” Xinhua is consolidating its role as both the competitor to foreign news outlets as well as their regulator – and censor. This inherent conflict of interest is not in keeping with official efforts to establish a market-oriented economy in which commercial and regulatory authorities are separate.
The FCCC urges Chinese authorities to suspend the new Xinhua regulations pending review of their compliance with China’s WTO obligations; previous commitments made to foreign news agencies; and the government’s long-term goal of establishing an independent regulator for media industries. These new regulations cast a shadow on China’s outstanding achievements embracing market reforms and are seen as a step backward in the government’s commitment to offer a “level playing field” to foreign businesses.