China to share reporter profiles with interviewees

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BEIJING, Nov 12 (Reuters) China is to share information about thousands of foreign reporters covering the Beijing Olympics with potential interviewees, the country's top press official said in comments published today.

Authorities were building a database of overseas reporters' profiles for the reference of interviewees, the China Daily quoted Liu Binjie, minister of the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP), as saying.

The database would cover 8,000 foreign journalists accredited to report from inside Olympic Games venues, and another 20,000 foreign reporters allowed to report outside the venues, Liu said.

The report did not elaborate on how the information would be given to interviewees, or how much detail would be kept, but it linked the databases to a crackdown on ''fake reporters'' and unlicensed publications China launched in August.

''Fake reporters, especially those representing overseas-registered media, harm society and deserve severe punishment,'' the paper quoted Liu as saying.

''Disguising reporters to threaten and intimidate others to collect money is cheating and very dangerous to society.'' GAPP officials contacted by telephone said they were unable to comment on the report and asked for questions to be faxed to them.

China had netted 150 fake reporters and 300 unregistered publications, the paper said, since launching the crackdown on ''fake news'', which also targets pornography and unauthorised publications.

The campaign had been extended to March, five months longer than planned, the paper said, citing GAPP.

Authorities shut down an unlicensed newspaper and arrested two of its staff, who they said had taken bribes to publish a report about an allegedly unfair court case in the country's northeast, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Sunday.

Last month, a court in the southern island province of Hainan jailed four men for posing as journalists and trying to blackmail a local official by threatening negative coverage.

Scams involving people posing as journalists are common in China, where official media are treated as an arm of government and journalists can use their influence to generate or silence stories.

But press freedom and human rights groups say China has used the campaign as justification to harass and punish journalists investigating corruption and other stories unfavourable to local authorities.

REUTERS SSC RK1025

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