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Xinhua says not seeking commercial gain from media rules

Written by: Staff
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BEIJING, Sep 14 (Reuters) China's Xinhua news agency said it is not seeking commercial gain from new rules controlling foreign news organisations, adding the updated regulations will not fundamentally change the government's oversight of media.

But Xinhua said in an overnight report seen today that foreign news outlets in China had to follow domestic law, in a country that tightly controls its own media and brooks little dissent to the one-party rule of the Communists.

''We will take an open attitude to do things well in accordance with the law and provide a good service. Xinhua seeks no economic gains therefrom,'' it said.

The state news agency announced rules on Sunday requiring foreign media to seek its approval with immediate effect to distribute news, pictures and graphics within China.

The rules seek to bar international financial information companies, including Reuters and Bloomberg, from selling news services directly to Chinese customers such as banks and brokerages.

Warning against dissemination of news that endangers national security, sabotages national unification or promotes cults, the rules empower Xinhua to censor reports distributed in China by foreign media and to delete forbidden content.

Xinhua said that the new rules were simply an extension of supervision powers originally granted them in 1996.

''The newly promulgated measures retain and continue the authorisation from 1996. There is no change in our policy toward the administration of overseas news agencies,'' it said.

Xinhua reiterated its stance than the rules are to ensure the orderly dissemination of financial news in China.

''The measures are aimed at protecting the legitimate rights of foreign news agencies in China and ensure the smooth circulation of financial and economic information,'' it said.

''In the meantime, foreign news agencies should abide by China's laws and regulations when releasing news and information in China, and they should manage their business in a legal way in China.'' China's Premier Wen Jiabao said on Wednesday during a visit to London that China's open policy towards foreign media and financial information agencies remained unchanged and the government would protect their freedom and rights.

International rights groups denounced the new regulations as another Chinese attack on freedom of information and as a backward step in the run-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, when thousands of journalists will descend on the capital.

The United States and European Union both expressed concern.

This week, the foreign minister of Finland, which holds the EU presidency, suggested the curbs may also be aimed at securing Xinhua's position in China's multi-million dollar financial information market.

''We will have to see how this new regulation is implemented but it looks like restricting the free flow of information -- although there may also be commercial reasons, say guarding the monopoly of the China news agency, as a reason behind it,'' Erkki Tuomioja said in Helsinki at an EU-Asia summit.

Also on Wednesday, Xinhua published comments by its vice president, Lu Wei, who said it was unfair the developed world had a near monopoly on the global flow of financial information.

The restrictions came weeks after a Chinese researcher for the New York Times was jailed for three years for fraud and a Hong Kong-based China correspondent for Singapore's Straits Times was sentenced to five years in prison for spying for Taiwan.

REUTERS VJ PM0755

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