China to ban news reports of major disasters

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The Independent Online

News reporting about disasters and public disorder in China could become a crime under a proposed bill which would ban the spread of information about catastrophes without official permission.

Government officials say the legislation is aimed at stopping "irresponsible journalism", but there are fears it could be used to stop any reporting that does not meet official approval.

The proposed Law on Response to Contingencies threatens fines of up to £7,000 for misleading reports and requires journalists to get government approval before divulging news of natural disasters, outbreaks of disease, riots and other unspecified "sudden events" or "contingencies".

Wang Yongqing, of the State Council's Legislative Affairs Office, said that the law was intended to improve news by stressing journalists' duty to report accurately.