For Press Passes, Journalists Must Now Pledge Secrecy

China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television (SAPPRFT) has announced that, in order to obtain the press certification needed to function as an effective reporter in the mainland, Chinese journalists are now required to sign a secrecy agreement with their employer. From the South China Morning Post:

Mainland journalists are now forced to sign a secrecy agreement with their employers before they can obtain a press pass, in another step in the party’s tightening grip on the media.

Journalists for the first time will have to sign the confidentiality agreement as a prerequisite to the press certificate, a unique system on the mainland that gives holders access to significant state events and official interviews.

Central government departments tend to grant interviews only to reporters who carry the certificate.

Under the agreement – which comes in force today – journalists should not release information they get from interviews, press conferences or other events on their personal blog, microblog or their messaging app WeChat without their employers’ consent.

[...] Not all active journalists on the mainland have the press pass, which is authorised by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television [...] [SAPPRFT]. Tabloids and online news portals, for instance, still operate even if most of their reporters do not have a pass.

However, not having the certificate restricts the amount of information the journalist can gather, especially when it comes to the sole party that rules the country. [Source]

Journalists will have until the end of October to renew press passes, and 250,000 are expected to comply. Last week, the state media regulator reiterated regulations preventing journalists and media professionals from sharing information and “state secrets,” and publicized the rules in a Xinhua article ordered to be displayed on all Chinese news portals. These recent SAPPRFT directives come as part of the Xi administration’s sustained efforts at tightening control over the media. From the New York Times:

The agency’s supervision over journalists has increased significantly since Xi Jinping became China’s president in March 2013. In January, in preparation for issuing the new press credentials, the agency required all Chinese journalists to take an exam, which tasked the journalists with memorizing Chinese leaders’ comments about regulating the news media.

In April 2013, the media administration banned journalists from publishing online any information acquired while on the job unless they had clearance from their employers. And late last month it published a directive banning journalists from sharing information with foreign news agencies.

Chinese journalists, operating under strict censorship, sometimes pass information they cannot run in their own publications to foreign journalists or post the information online.

In May, Gao Yu, 70, a veteran Chinese journalist and longtime government critic, was detained on charges of leaking secret documents to a foreign website. [Source]