China to introduce journalist "black list"

BEIJING Fri Feb 13, 2009 12:13pm IST

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BEIJING (Reuters) - China's news censors will create a new "black list" to force out reporters found breaking rules, an official news agency said on Friday, adding to the wary government's tools for media control.

Li Dongdong, a deputy chief of the General Administration of Press and Publication, told officials that proposed strengthened regulations for Chinese journalists would include a "full database of people who engage in unhealthy professional conduct", the China News Service reported.

"People entered into the transgressor list will be excluded from engaging in news reporting and editing work," the report said, citing Li.

She said stricter controls being drafted by the agency were needed to "resolutely halt fake news".

But a critic said the ruling Communist Party's real target was probably combative reporters and editors who buck its propaganda controls.

"A database for this kind of thing would be a new thing," said Li Datong, a former editor at the official China Youth Daily who was shunted out of his job for criticising censorship.

"This fighting fake news is a cloak. You can call all sorts of news fake," he said. "There really is a problem with fake reporting and reporters, but there are already plenty of ways to deal with that."

Chinese media are state-controlled. But many of the nation's thousands of newspapers and magazines are seeking to survive in a brutally competitive market, and some seek to attract readers with exposes of corruption and official misdeeds.

There have also been many reports of journalists, real and bogus, seeking bribes from companies not to report bad news, such as coal mine disasters.

China already has plenty of rules and officials controlling the flow of news and the Communist Party's Propaganda Department minutely manages what newspapers and other media do and do not report.

But officials believe these controls are not enough. The government is worried about unrest amid the economic slowdown and a series of politically sensitive anniversaries, especially the 20th year since troops crushed pro-democracy protests in 1989.

"This year, the General Administration of Press and Publication will introduce a series of rules and regulations to strengthen oversight and administration of news professionals and reporting activities," the report said, citing an announcement from an official meeting.

The agency will tighten up approvals for Chinese reporters' credentials, it said. Such rules would not apply to foreign reporters in China, who are regulated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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