China: Authorities plan to ban private investment in news outlets

The Chinese government has proposed new directives that seek to prohibit private enterprises from investing in and operating media organisations in the country. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is concerned that the authorities’ plan will further suppress the already restricted media environment in China. 

A man reads a newspaper next to a news stand in Beijing. Credit: Greg Baker / AFP

On October 8, China’s National Development and Reform Commission, the country’s top economic regulator, revealed the draft negative list for market access in 2021, which lays out areas where investment is prohibited or restricted in China. 

In practice, private enterprises are not permitted to invest in areas on the list designated as “prohibited” and are required to obtain prior official approval to do so in those listed as “restricted”. The commission said it is seeking public opinion on the draft until October 14.

According to the commission’s plan, non-state capital will be banned from engaging in activities such as newsgathering, editing, broadcasting, and distribution. Private companies will not be permitted to invest in establishing or operating news organisations, including news agencies, newspaper publishing houses, radio and television stations, and news websites, nor will they be allowed to run the social media accounts of those organisations.

The plan forbids private investors from funding livestreaming events, forums and awards selection activities in the field of journalism and public opinion. The introduction of news released by overseas entities through private capital will also be halted. In its previous list, issued in 2020, Beijing set entry limits on internet-based news outlets funded by private companies. 

The IFJ said: “The Beijing authorities’ plan to outlaw privately funded news services contradicts its claims of developing an open market and will further stifle a media industry already gripped by state censorship. The IFJ expresses deep concern over the impact the proposed rules may have on China’s media industry and urges the Chinese government to respect freedom of the press.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

Twitter: @ifjasiapacific, on Facebook: IFJAsiaPacific and Instagram