BEIJING, June 19 China is not trying to ban
reporters from publishing critical reports without prior
approval, an official told state media on Thursday, insisting an
order had been misinterpreted and its real goal was to stop
journalists abusing their jobs.
The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film
and Television issued rules on Wednesday saying reporters could
only publish critical stories if their employer had signed off
on it, sparking accusations of censorship.
The rules come as the government intensifies a crackdown on
freedom of expression, both online and in traditional media.
But Jiang Jianguo, deputy head of the administration, told
the official Xinhua news agency that the government was
dedicated to protecting reporters' rights.
"Some people misinterpreted our instruction as not allowing
press criticism in general, but in fact, we have resolutely
protected reporters' lawful professional rights and positively
support media supervision via public opinion," Jiang said.
The order that reporters get their employers' approval to
conduct critical reporting is "in line with regular regulations
and addresses the problem journalists abusing their positions
for blackmail", Jiang added.
The rules are part of a national campaign against crooked
and fake reporters who demand hush money for burying negative
stories, which often are untrue, Xinhua said.
"This behaviour has severely violated the rights of ordinary
people, damaged media organizations' reputations and smeared the
image of journalists," Jiang said.
China adopted tough measures to crack down on online rumours
last year, but critics say the campaign is simply a means to
target criticism of the ruling Communist Party that has chilled
China's news media is heavily censored and media
organisations need to obtain licenses from the government before
State media has been the key vehicle for party propaganda,
but reforms over the past decade have allowed greater
commercialisation and some increase in editorial independence.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)