Reporters Without Borders today hailed a foreign ministry decision, taken under international pressure, to loosen regulations for foreign journalist working in China. From the beginning of next month until October 2008, foreign journalists with accreditation for the Olympic and Paralympic Games will be able to travel freely throughout China, including Tibet and Xinjiang.
“The campaigns against the archaic restrictions on the work of the foreign press have not been in vain,” the press freedom organisation said. “The organisers of the Olympic Games, especially Liu Qi, have kept their promises. But this positive development is eclipsed by today’s appeal court decision to uphold a three-year prison sentence for New York Times researcher Zhao Yan.”
Reporters Without Borders added: “It is also regrettable that the authorities did not have the courage to scrap all the draconian restrictions once and for all, especially articles 14 and 15 of the Foreign Correspondents Guide. We fear that the abusive treatment of the international press will resume after the Olympics.”
The new, nine-point regulations issued today by the foreign ministry for foreign journalists during the Olympic Games and their preparation do not include any need for special permission before travelling in the provinces or going to sensitive regions such as Tibet or Xinjiang.
Article 3 of the regulations says journalists must obtain a visa or “Olympic accreditation” in order to enter the country freely. Articles 4 and 5 allow the media to temporarily import broadcast equipment. Article 7 says the foreign media will be able to hire Chinese citizens, but only through an organisation authorised to provide this service.
Changes to the Foreign Correspondent’s Guide is the second item on a list of 10 measures which Reporters Without Borders has been urging the Chinese authorities to adopt in order to be able to host the Olympic Games in an acceptable manner. The list is as follows:
1. Release journalists such as Zhao Yan and Ching Cheong, as well as Internet users detained in China for exercising their right to information.
2. Rescind the restrictive articles in the Foreign Correspondents Guide, especially articles 14 and 15, which limit the freedom of movement of foreign journalists.
3. Withdraw censorship measures from the draft law about the management of crisis situations.
4. Disband the Publicity Department (the former Propaganda Department), which exercises daily control over content in the Chinese press.
5. End the jamming of foreign radio stations.
6. End the blocking of thousands of news and information websites based abroad.
7. Suspend the “11 Commandments of the Internet,” which lead to content censorship and self-censorship on websites.
8. Scrap the blacklists of journalists and human rights activists who are banned from visiting China.
9. Withdraw the ban on Chinese media using foreign news agency video footage and news reports without permission.
10. Legalize independent organisations of journalists and human rights activists.