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China Tightens Media Control

China on Sunday announced detailed controls on the distribution of news by foreign news agencies, banning all content that violates its own tight media restrictions.

The new measures took effect as soon as they were issued by the official Xinhua News Agency.

They limit foreign news agencies to distributing news only through Xinhua or entities authorized by Xinhua.

The detailed rules ban news content that disrupts "China's economic and social order or undermine China's social stability," Xinhua said.

The limits also ban news that undermines the country's "national unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity," it said.

The announcement said the rules would also apply to release of news and information in Hong Kong and Taiwan, although it was unclear how they would be applied given the separate legal systems in those territories.

China has long sought to limit foreign distribution of news inside the country while exercising harsh limits on domestic media that are often arbitrarily enforced by vaguely worded state security rules that mandate harsh penalties, including long prison terms, for violations.

The new rules appeared designed to end any uncertainties over the government's determination to prevent foreign news businesses from operating in the Chinese mainland.

"Foreign news agencies shall not directly solicit subscription of their news and information services in China," it said.

Xinhua said the rules were meant to "promote the dissemination of news and information in a sound and orderly manner."

Other news banned by the rules included: information that may, "endanger China's national security, reputation and interests;" that which may "violation China's religious policies or preach 'evil cults' or superstition;" and that which might "incite hatred and discrimination among ethnic groups" or undermine their unity, it said.

Also forbidden are "other content banned by Chinese laws and administrative regulations," it said.

"Xinhua News Agency has the right to select the news and information released by foreign news agencies in China and shall delete any materials mentioned in the items above," it said.

"If a foreign news agency violates the measures, for example, Xinhua News Agency shall give it a warning, demand rectification within a prescribed time limit, suspend its release of specified content, suspend or cancel its qualifications for releasing news and information in China," it added.

The rules impose "disciplinary penalties" on staff members who violate such restrictions, it said.

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