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China Bans Media from Quoting Foreign News

China's media authority has announced new regulations barring news outlets and other organizations from reporting on foreign media coverage without permission.

The General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television's unveiled the tighter controls in a notice [zh] released on April 16, 2013, less than a day after The New York Times announced it had won a Pulitzer Prize for the newspaper's report on the hidden wealth of Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao's family.

In response to that October 2012 report, the Chinese government blocked the New York Times website as well as Wen Jiabao's name on Sina Weibo.

In addition to requiring Chinese media to have authorization to use foreign media content, the regulations also clamp down on organizations and journalists sharing information on social media, such as popular microblogging site Sina Weibo, that wouldn't normally be included in publication.

The notice, published by China's state media Xinhua, reads [zh]:

各类新闻单位均不得擅自使用境外媒体、境外网站新闻信息产品。坚决制止和依法查处采编人员以网络为平台牟取非法利益等行为。新闻单位设立官方微博须向其主管单位备案并指定专人发布权威信息,及时删除有害信息。

All news outlets are not allowed to use news information from foreign media or foreign websites without permission. It is firmly forbidden for journalists and editors to use the Internet as a platform to seek illegal benefits; such behavior will be investigated and punished according to the law. To start an official Weibo account, news agencies should first report to authorities for record and appoint a staff to be responsible for posting authoritative information and deleting harmful information in time.

Most of the stories from the foreign pages of state-run newspaper were sourced from international news agencies. According to The Telegraph, the ban on the use of foreign media would have a big impact on Chinese newspapers.

The news has triggered online outrage among many Weibo users, especially among journalists. Beijing-based journalist “Qingdeng Xiaxiangmingbian” wrote [zh]:

Internet in China by Karen Roach via Shutterstock

Internet in China by Karen Roach via Shutterstock

青灯下香茗边:舆论监督是一个健康社会的必需品,批评的尺度就是民主的尺度,‘若批评不自由,则赞美无意义’。正确结论来自多元化的声音,而不是权威的选择。

Public opinion supervision is essential for a healthy society, the scale of criticism is the scale of democracy, “if criticism is not free, then praise is meaningless”. The correct conclusion is from a wide range of voices, rather than what is chosen by the authority.

Web user “Lida Suibi” questioned [zh] if having such a tight grasp on the media is even effective in the long run:

什么是有害信息?我觉得,信息只有真假之分。新闻的唯一目的是转播真相,这是人类社会的基本需求。在新中国历史上,被宣传管理部门定义为有害信息的绝大部分信息,事后都被证明是正确的。思想屏蔽也许有效一时,但掩耳盗铃之策非长久之道。

What is harmful information? I think there's only true and false information. The purpose of the news is to broadcast the truth, which is the basic need of a society. Most of the harmful information as defined by the propaganda department throughout the history of the Chinese republic proved to be accurate. Blocking information and opinions may be effective temporarily, but such a policy of self-denial won't work in the long run.

Another web user “Yun Mu” echoed [zh] the sentiment with a Chinese idiom:

欲盖弥彰!

The more one tries to hide, the more one is exposed.

“Ye Laodie aiLvse” wrote [zh] sarcastically:

这要变朝鲜了吗?

Are we going to become North Korea?

Journalist Liu Xiangqian pointed out [zh] the lack of a new media law in China:

是法律法规严重落后于事物的发展!互联网到目前为止还不被认为是法律意义上媒体,何况自媒体!

Laws and regulations are seriously lagging behind in the development of things! The Internet has not been considered media in the legal sense, not to mention citizen media!

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