The International Federation of Journalists today welcomed the action of China to allow foreign reporters to work freely as a “challenging step forward” and called on the country to embrace press freedom principles in all areas of media policy.
On Friday new regulations, approved by Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, were announced. These make permanent the less restrictive rules for reporting that were introduced prior to the Olympic Games and were due to expire on October 17. Under the regulations foreign reporters are able to travel where they wish without prior permission and to interview anyone who is willing to talk to them.
"This is a significant decision and a challenging step that takes us in the right direction,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “It opens the door to a new dialogue and the hope that core principles of press freedom can be embraced in all areas. Certainly, the moment is right to review all punitive laws that are used against journalists – Chinese and foreign correspondents alike.”
The IFJ says that the Chinese action vindicates a policy of dialogue and engagement rather than confrontation with China which the IFJ implemented prior to the Olympics. An official delegation of journalists’ leaders from ten countries visited Beijing in March this year and met with government chiefs and heads of official media and urged that the policy of openness media temporarily put in place to help the world’s media cover the games to meet be continued.
At the same time a joint project, organised by the IFJ and the media sports support group Play The Game, provided support for thousands of journalists visiting China. Two on-the-spot observers were sent to monitor the treatment of media.
“It was not a trouble-free period,” said White “with dozens of incidents of interference in media reporting showing that some police and local officials did not get the message that they should assist reporters.”
Nevertheless, says the IFJ, it will follow up the latest announcement and seek to have controls on journalists’ sources lifted as well as the opening of restricted areas of reporting including access to Tibet and restrictions on local journalists
“We shall continue dialogue with the All China Journalists’ Association and continue to monitoring of developments China,” said White. “Tens of thousands of journalists in China are yearning for change and improved working conditions and we shall do everything we can to support them.”