Tighter grip placed on internet news
Bill Savadove in Shanghai
Rules aimed at tightening control over news posted on the internet were announced yesterday, with officials saying reports must protect the interests of the state.
Mainland authorities already strictly control the media and have sought to use technology to filter and monitor internet content considered politically sensitive or pornographic. Dissidents and journalists have also been jailed for posting and e-mailing essays that Beijing considers a threat to the state.
Xinhua said the new Internet News Information Service Management Rules aimed to improve regulation of the profession. China News Service quoted the rules as saying that organisations posting news and information on the internet must not publish reports touching on 11 areas.
These 11 'forbidden zones' include news that would endanger state security, state secrets which have not been declassified, or reports that sparked ethnic violence.
News challenging the state's religious policies or preaching cultist or superstitious beliefs were also banned. Most importantly, the rules state that organisations cannot publish news which incites social unrest by spreading rumours, or instigating public protests or assemblies.
The rules ban joint internet publishing ventures or partnerships with foreign organisations.
The announcement comes before a key Communist Party plenum next month. Beijing typically steps up controls before such events to stifle protests and present a picture of stability.
The State Council Information Office and the Ministry of Information Industry, which issued the rules, said organisations posting news and information on the internet must obey the law and serve socialism. 'The state bans dissemination of content which goes against state security and the public interest,' the report said.
Rules on internet news were issued in late 2000, but Xinhua said rapid development of the internet in the past five years had made them obsolete.
Under the new rules, three types of entities will be allowed to report news. They include bodies set up by existing media organisations which are either republishing news or posting news based on their own reporting.
Non-media organisations will only be allowed to republish news already reported by state-approved media. The State Council Information Office or local governments must approve the establishment of such organisations.
Xinhua said the rules would take effect after being published in full by the government, but gave no date.
The State Council Information Office and the Ministry of Information Industry acknowledged the growing power of the internet, saying it had become an important channel for news and had made a deep impact on political and social life.
Some experts have forecast development of the internet will outpace the authorities' efforts to control it, although that prediction has yet to come true.
Beijing's controls over the internet came under the spotlight recently when a rights group said that Yahoo! had provided information to authorities that led to journalist Shi Tao being jailed for 10 years.
Shi had sent information to foreign websites about government preparations for the anniversary of the June 4 Tiananmen Square crackdown.
Yahoo! said it was following local laws.