In January 2007, the government told foreign reporters that they would be allowed to travel around the country without seeking government permission and that they would be able to interview any Chinese citizen who would talk with them. The new 2007 rules applied only to foreign reporters–and not their Chinese colleagues. They were put into place as part of China’s 2001 pledge to the International Olympic Committee that “there will be no restrictions on journalists in reporting on the Olympic Games,” a promise it made to quell fears that China would continue to pursue its highly restrictive media policies.
The announcement was met with cautious praise, though most foreign reporters had long ignored the travel restrictions and learned how to avoid hassles at airports and on trains and buses. Traveling without government permission was seen as part of the way the game was played in
For all the criticism directed at
Security personnel question Chinese citizens who grant interviews to the foreign media. On September 17, one month before the government was to announce its decision on what will happen to the new rules, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China wrote
The regulations should also guarantee protection of news sources. During the Olympic period, the FCCC received numerous reports of people being prosecuted, intimidated or otherwise prevented from speaking to foreign reporters.
Around 100 countries have laws to protect sources.
China is behind most other major economies in not recognizing this international best practice.
China to join these nations,” said FCCC president, Jonathan Watts. “ China cannot meet its promise of being open to the world unless its citizens are allowed to speak freely to foreign reporters.”
The FCCC keeps a running tally of incidents of harassment of reporters and their sources on this page.
As for freedom of travel, while the FCCC noted many instances of violations, China adhered to the eased travel restrictions for a while but reversed them completely in March, when ethnic rioting broke out in Tibet. Then, the government simply closed off areas to all but the most trusted Chinese reporters, and demanded that all Chinese media rely on the official Chinese news agency Xinhua and
The same sort of restrictive rules came into play as the scandal of melamine-tainted milk evolved. On October 10, the Central Propaganda Department ordered media not to report on a lawsuit that had been filed in
None of this sort of behavior is new–it is how