Updated 8:44 AM EDT, Wed, Aug 18, 2021

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Chinese Journalists Grapple with New Media Regulations

China's press authority issued new rules on media reporting that put journalists in a bind.

Xinhua news agency, Beijing's official media mouthpiece, said media organizations are prohibited from disseminating "various information, materials and news products that journalists may deal with during their work, including state secrets, commercial secrets and unpublicized information."

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According to TIME magazine, Chinese journalists learned of the new rules only on July 8, more than a week after the measures were introduced by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television on June 30.

Xinhua said the directive explicitly bans "illegal copying, recording or storage of state secrets."

But journalists are complaining, saying the regulations are not clear because they do not give details of what are considered "state secret," "new products" and "unpublicized information."

TIME cited the case of one journalist who said the rules raised a lot of questions. The reporter asked if there was an official list that will clarify what information is considered state secret and what it not.

"If we want to cover an official's corruption scandal, is this scandal a state secret? Who knows?" the reporter asked.

Reporters and human rights groups see the regulations as part of a wider government crackdown on press freedom.

An investigative journalist told TIME he expects members of the media to be increasingly wary of reporting on matters that could send them to jail. He said his discussions with other journalists reached a consensus that self-censorship in their ranks will intensify.

China has detained journalists in the past on charges that human rights organizations, such as London-based Amnesty International, say are baseless.

In April, authorities arrested Gao Yu, a 70-year-old reporter, on allegations that she distributed "a secret central-party document" to a foreign website.

Amnesty's China researcher, Anu Kultalahti, said the authorities purposely use vague words as a "smoke screen to target activists."

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