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China unveils curbs on foreign news distribution

Written by: Staff
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BEIJING, Sep 10 (Reuters) China today announced rules requiring foreign media to seek approval from its state news agency to distribute news, pictures and graphics domestically, and warned against reports that ''endanger national security''.

The rules, released by Xinhua and with immediate effect, also empowered the news agency to censor news distributed in China by foreign media and delete contents deemed forbidden.

Xinhua did not identify any foreign news agency.

The rules said foreign news, pictures and graphics can be sold in China only through agents approved by Xinhua.

Xinhua will conduct annual reviews to decide whether to renew business licenses of foreign media. Violations can elicit warnings or a grace period to correct mistakes.

Business licenses of foreign news agencies can be suspended or revoked if they break the rules such as publishing objectionable news or directly developing clients.

The rules said foreign news agencies should not carry reports that endanger national security, fan ethnic hatred and racial discrimination or promote cults and superstition News that violates national unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity will also elicit punishment.

The regulations, which also apply to Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan news agencies, replace a 1996 cabinet decree regulating distribution of financial information.

Xinhua told agencies to submit written application but did not say if re-submission was needed for existing operators.

Xinhua said the new rules were aimed at ''promoting healthy and orderly dissemination of news''.

Earlier this year, China proposed a draft law that would impose fines on media outlets if they broke news on emergencies such as natural disasters without authorisation.

Observers said China was seeking to regulate domestic media and publication of foreign news ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The rules dictate that domestic users of foreign news are required to state the news source and barred from reselling foreign news to 'protect intellectual property rights of foreign agencies''.

They also call for punishment of Xinhua employees if they approve unqualified applicants or fail to fulfil their responsibility to supervise foreign news disseminated in China.

REUTERS SY BST1423

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