Except on state security, officials will have to answer to the media New regulations on information disclosure are expected to come into force this year. They will say that government officials must accept supervision by the media and public on all matters except confidential ones concerning state security. A key aspect of the regulations involves appointing spokesmen to give out information, sources said. The rules are expected to build on reporting requirements brought in under emergency public-health measures introduced during the Sars epidemic in May. If transparency rules introduced by Shenzhen's Communist Party municipal committee are anything to go by, the regulations will make a big difference. They say that officials who obstruct newsgathering or evade legitimate questions may be held legally accountable for dereliction of duty. The regulations apply to party and government organisations, state public enterprises, individual party members and civil servants. Li Xiguang, professor of journalism at Tsinghua University, said disclosing more information would make the government more responsive to the public. 'Without public support, official policies would be difficult to implement,' he said. 'The government has come to understand disclosure is for its own benefit.' The disclosure requirement would give the media greater access to information, and is part of wider media reforms, he said. Professor Li said state organisations were increasingly employing spokespeople to give out information. Since 2001, he has trained more than 500 officials in central and local government offices on how to interact with the media. The training aims to give them skills to conduct press briefings and manage crises - with lessons drawn from the White House's handling of the September 11 attacks and the Iraqi war, and from the British government's handling of the row over intelligence reports on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction. The response of the Chinese government during the Sars epidemic also served as an object lesson for prospective spokespeople, he said. Professor Li denied he was teaching the art of spin, saying the job of a spokesman was to paint the government's actions in the most favourable light. As journalists moved from serving as mouthpieces of the government to an adversarial role, spokesmen had to know how to build and defend the government's credibility. The regulations on information disclosure are a long way from constituting a law to enshrine and protect the people's right to know, Professor Li acknowledged. Nie Lu, a lecturer in law at the Chinese University of Political Science and Law, said Chinese rulers have long withheld information to maintain their aura of authority. But as China embraced global standards and practices, there would be increasing calls to discuss enshrining in law the people's right to know, Professor Nie said.