China has introduced new rules to restrict journalism. The rules say that journalists and their news organizations are forbidden from initiating critical reporting that has not been approved.
The new rules also prohibit a host of other journalistic activities. Reporters may not do reporting across industries or focus areas . News outlets are forbidden from establishing businesses in advertising, publishing or public relations. And they
can't even circulate critical documents internally or on private websites. +
The government rules seem related to recent announcement that over 14,000 press cards had been revoked for supposedly bogus journalists. The measures also appear designed to address corruption scandals involving news outlets found to be practicing black PR,
obtaining profits through paid-for content.
The government had just announced that month that reporters were not allowed to report anything, even on their own blogs and social media sites , that had not been approved by an editor at their news organization. The announcement was aimed at heading
off enterprising--and increasingly frustrated--reporters who would often release directly to their own readers information that had not survived their publications' editing and censorship processes.
On April 11, several Myanmar newspapers and journals blacked-out their front pages to protest the jailing of journalists by the national government.
The Myanmar Journalist Network says five journalists are currently detained in Myanmar, despite the government's commitment to further expand media freedom in the country.
The protest was organized right after a multimedia reporter for the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), an independent online publication, was sentenced by a local court to one year in prison for trespassing on government property and disrupting the work of
a government official. The case involved Zaw Pe, a reporter covering a Japanese-funded scholarship program in 2012. He was accused of trespassing after attempting to visit and take footage at an office of the national Department of Education in central
Myanmar during office hours.
In an interview with Irawaddy.com, DVB bureau chief Toe Zaw Latt called the sentence outrageous :
He was taking the video recording during office hours. It's outrageous that he is being sentenced for trespassing...We have to question the degree of press freedom in the country.
These are not good signs for press freedom, if journalists have to face a lawsuit for covering news during office hours. We are worried that these actions might be a sign of restrictions in press freedom again, as it was in the past.