China extends Olympic press rules

Foreign reporters still allow to roam freely

BEIJING — China has extended rules which were introduced for the Olympic Games allowing foreign reporters to move and interview freely throughout the country, the government said yesterday.

The move, which came at the 11th hour, means foreign journalists will still be able to interview people without seeking official permission and will be permitted to travel in areas outside of the cities in which they are accredited.

There were no breakthroughs on freedoms for domestic media.

“This is not only a big step forward for China in opening up to the outside world, for the foreign journalists it’s also a big step,” said foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao.

The previous rules, introduced on Jan. 1 last year as part of China’s Olympic commitment to give foreign reporters more freedom, were set to expire on Friday, two months after the end of the Beijing Games.

 Reporters still must get permission from local authorities to gain access to the sensitive Himalayan region of Tibet, and China’s ruling Communist Party seeks to keep strict control of the flow of information within the country.

The Beijing-based Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China welcomed the decision. The FCC recorded more than 335 cases of authorities interfering with reporters, such as detaining journalists and harassing their sources, since Jan. 1 of last year.

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