Chinese government levies hefty 'sudden event' fines

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Chinese media outlets, including news websites, could be fined up to $12,500 every time they report on "sudden events" without government permission, under a proposed law under consideration by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress.

"The law, revealed today in most state-run newspapers, would give government officials a powerful new tool to restrict coverage of mass outbreaks of disease, riots, strikes, accidents and other events that the authorities prefer to keep secret," says The New York Times.

"More than 100 million Chinese have access to the Internet, and hundreds of commercially driven newspapers, magazines and television stations provide a much wider selection of news and information than was available in the recent past. As a result, Chinese authorities have also sought fresh ways to curtail reporting on topics and events they consider harmful to social and political stability."

Editors and journalists, "say they receive constant bulletins from the Propaganda Department forbidding reporting on an ever-expanding list of taboo topics, including 'sudden events'," says the story, adding:

"Journalists say local authorities are likely to interpret the law broadly, giving officials leeway to restrict coverage of any social and political disturbance that they consider embarrassing, like demonstrations over land seizures, environmental pollution or corruption."