Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The great firewall of modern China

The latest set of internet regulations announced by the Chinese government are cause for deepening gloom about the prospects for free speech in the world's most populous country. Although the new rules governing online news reports are largely a codification of existing practice, they underline the determination of Communist leaders to stifle dissent and will further limit the facts and political opinions available to the country's 100m internet users. The rules threaten organisations that disobey with fines and closure, and call for the transmission of "healthy and civilised" news.

The announcement was the most recent of a series of moves over the past few months to tighten control of local and foreign media. Several journalists have been arrested, one with the help of the US internet portal Yahoo, which - like Microsoft - has been accused of undermining free speech to protect its interests in China. Earlier this month a frustrated Rupert Murdoch, chairman and chief executive of News Corp, said his company had hit a "brick wall" in China and accused Beijing of paranoia.

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