China issued new rules on reporting activities by foreign correspondents on its territory late Friday, allowing them to interview without application to foreign affairs departments.
“The new rules follow the major principles and spirits of the media regulations introduced for the Beijing Olympics,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said at a late night press conference.
The conference began 15 minutes before the expiry of the temporary Olympic rules, which were introduced on January 1, 2007 and removed media restrictions on foreign reporters during the Beijing Games.
China took a further step toward opening itself to the world, announcing Friday that an easing of restrictions on foreign journalists enacted for the Olympics would become permanent.
Premier Wen Jiabao signed the decree, which took immediate effect, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao at a late-night news conference.
Under the new regulations, which had been anticipated by journalists, foreign reporters would not be required to get government permission to travel within the country or to interview Chinese citizens.
Update: Press freedom groups have called on China to extend the new rules to domestic journalists as well. From AFP:
Rights groups and media experts Saturday gave a cautious welcome to China’s decision to allow foreign reporters greater freedom and urged Beijing to extend the same rights to domestic journalists.
[…] David Bandurski, a researcher for the China Media Project at the University of Hong Kong, said the issue of press freedom in China was determined by domestic media policy rather than rules governing foreign reporters’ work.
“This is not going to have any appreciable impact on domestic journalists,” he said.