The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China welcomes new regulations governing reporting activities by foreign journalists during the Beijing Olympic Games and its run-up, a period that runs from Jan. 1, 2007 to Oct. 17, 2008.
Depending on how they are implemented, we hope they’ll one day be looked back upon as a major step in bringing correspondents’ reporting conditions in China much closer to international standards.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry should be credited, in particular, for Article 6, which states that “to interview organizations or individuals in China, foreign journalists need only to obtain their prior consent.” This article supersedes the most egregious restrictions, dating back to 1990, which required foreign media to obtain prior permission from local authorities before reporting at the grassroots.
However the FCCC believes the new regulations should be permanent, not temporary, and moreover should not be restricted to foreign journalists covering “the Beijing Olympic Games and related matters” as is currently stated. In this respect we were encouraged to hear Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao say the new regulations will relate to coverage of political, economic, cultural and other issues.
The true value of the new regulations will depend on their implementation. The FCCC thinks it’s important that interviewees and other sources not be harassed, and also expects the new regulations to apply to the Chinese assistants of foreign news bureaus. The FCCC will continue its liaison with Chinese authorities to help prevent detentions of foreign media, and has recommended that the Foreign Ministry publicize the telephone number of a 24-hour “hotline” which foreign correspondents can call if they are detained illegally.