Media regulation

No newsgathering in Wangfujing without prior permission

Ahead of Sunday's non-protests in downtown Beijing's Wangfujing pedestrian street, a number of foreign journalists reported receiving telephone calls reminding them to follow relevant laws and regulations in the course of their news-gathering. Some were instructed to contact the Wangfujing administrative office ahead of time to obtain approval to conduct interviews.

Reporters who arrived at the scene on Sunday met with a sizable security presence. Some were pushed around, and a few were detained by police.

Existing regulations on reporting (dating from October, 2008), state that foreign journalists need only obtain prior consent from individuals or organizations they wish to interview. But McClatchy's Tom Lasseter notes that a cryptic item in the state media the week before mentioned that prior approval may now be required to conduct interviews in China. And the Wall Street Journal's China Real Time Report quotes foreign ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu's response to complaints about mistreatment: "When a German television reporter described police detaining him for hours and erasing his tape, Ms. Jiang said: 'I sympathize with what befell you. But I’d like to ask you a question: Did you apply ahead of time to visit that area for interviews?'"

It turns out that Jiang Yu is correct, at least for the Wangfujing area. New detailed regulations that went into effect on January 1, 2011 contain an expanded list of activities prohibited in the pedestrian street.

The detailed rules are based on a set of rules that have governed conduct in Wangfujing since October 1, 2000. Here's the text of Article 7 of the earlier rules:

7. Any of the following activities shall be discouraged by public security organs and dealt with in accordance with relevant laws and regulations:

1) Streetside begging, sleeping in the streets;
2) Engaging in feudal superstition such as divination or fortune-telling, or in gambling;
3) Bringing dogs and other animals;
4) Other activities that disturb public order and obstruct public security.

Article 9 of the new rules clarifies the "other activities" mentioned in (4) with a new rule:

9. Those who engage in any of the following activities shall be dissuaded by Wangfujing personnel. Those who do not heed shall be dealt with by public security organs in accordance with relevant laws and regulations:

1) Streetside begging, sleeping in the streets;
2) Engaging in feudal superstition such as divination or fortune-telling, or in gambling;
3) Bringing dogs and other animals;
4) Conducting unauthorized interviews or photography that gathers people together;
5) Other activities that disturb public order and obstruct public security.

The new rules seem to have been posted online fairly recently, and do not show up in a Baidu web search as of this afternoon.

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