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China Cracks Down On Media Some More

"China's highest court announced rules this week under which officials who give journalists 'improper' news will face severe punishment, the official New China News Agency said. Information will be released only through a newly created system of court spokesmen."

That's what the Washington Post reported today, in yet another example of the Chinese government exerting control over the media. More interesting was a line came further in the story: "It was unclear how the new rules differed from the old ones, as Chinese courts already refuse to release verdicts and basic information."

Just this weekend, China announced some other new regulations that would give its state-run news agency, Xinhua, "control over distribution within China of news, information and other services from foreign agencies. Xinhua said it would delete items deemed to violate national unity or social stability," wrote the Associated Press. Basically, that means more instances of the mysterious disappearance of tank man and the other mysterious disappearance of that Falun Gong protestor that heckled Hu Jintao's public visit to the White House back in April.

None of this news is particularly surprising, as China has quite a history of clamping down on the press (one that we've documented in a slightly obsessive manner.)

What's interesting, however, is that this slew of developments to manage and control press freedom more closely in China are happening in advance of a major international news event taking place in Beijing – the 2008 Olympics. While Beijing has apparently pledged to allow open press coverage of the Games, one human rights activist noted to the AP that the new measures don't exactly jibe with that arrangement: "These latest measures sound a wake-up call to the international community that a closed, state-controlled Olympics is on the horizon," she said. A legal scholar from Beijing University told the Post:

"The Chinese government has been tightening the control of information and freedom of press for the past two to three years," He added. "Some experts believe it's just temporary, in order to maintain the current political order and prepare for bigger adjustments in the future. Others think this is just the normal practice of the authorities and there is no other alternative."

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