A man reads the Chinese state-run newspaper Global Times on a street in Beijing on August 17, 2021. Chinese authorities are set to ban private investment in news media. (AFP/ Jade GAO)

China to ban private investment in the nation’s news industry

Taipei, October 14, 2021 – Chinese authorities must drop plans to ban private funding of the news media, and allow news organizations to operate freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

On October 8, the National Development and Reform Commission, a ministerial-level department overseeing China’s economic and social development policies, released its “2021 Negative List of Market Access,” an annually updated list of industries where private investment is prohibited or restricted, according to news reports.

The document states that “non-public capital” cannot invest in the establishment and operation of news organizations, including news agencies, newspapers, publishers, radio and television broadcasters, and online news. The document also states that private capital cannot be used to publish news produced by “foreign entities.”

Following a period of public comment which ends today, the list will be ratified by the Chinese Communist Party and the state council, China’s administrative authority, according to the council and the commission. The ban will come into force after the commission and the Ministry of Commerce jointly release the finalized list, which in recent years they have done in late November or December, according to the commission’s website.

“China’s proposed regulations to ban private investment in media-related business threatens to deliver a death blow to China’s already extremely hobbled independent news industry,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, in Washington, D.C. “The information needs of China’s people would be best served by allowing private news operations to operate freely, without controls from the state.”

Since 2018, the National Development and Reform Commission has released its annual “negative list” to guide national policy on investment and business operations in different sectors, according to the Chinese government’s official website. Last year’s “negative list” stated that news organizations could not receive more money in private investment than they did in public investment.

CPJ has contacted the National Development and Reform Commission via its website but did not receive any response.

According to CPJ’s most recent prison census, at least 47 journalists were imprisoned in China as of December 1, 2020, making it the worst jailer of journalists worldwide for the second year in a row.