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China Tightens Rules for Online News Outlets

By April Ma and Wu Gang

China’s agency overseeing the internet issued new rules on Tuesday banning private and foreign companies from engaging in news production and dissemination, in a move that effectively extends current restrictions governing print news media to cover online news publishing.

“No organization shall set up internet information services operated by joint ventures or foreign investors,” the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said in a statement published on its website on Tuesday. The statement also said that if any existing online news outlets want to cooperate with foreign-invested companies, they must report to the administration for a security assessment.

All online publishers — including websites, apps, instant-messaging apps, blogs, social media accounts and forums — must obtain permits from authorities in order to be able to publish news or news commentaries online, according to the Internet News Information Service Regulations, which will come into effect on June 1.

The websites and smartphone apps of many foreign news media have been accessible in China for years, although some media outlets, including The New York Times and Bloomberg, are not available on the Chinese mainland.

Foreign companies have not been allowed to invest in the news-production business in China for decades. The online news regulations released by the CAC are deemed an extension of this existing practice.

“This is a step to replicate the management imposed on traditional news organizations such as newspapers,” said Qiao Mu, a fomer professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University.

The new regulations also state that internet news service’s editorial and business operations should be separate, and “nonpublic assets should not enter into online news production.”

The regulations also state that the editor-in-chief of any online news service must be a Chinese citizen while the organization is registered in the mainland.

This story has been updated to correct Qiao Mu's occupational status.

Contact reporters April Ma (fangjingma@caixin.com) and Wu Gang (gangwu@caixin.com)

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