Foreign journalists will have increased and wider access to government departments and find it easier to cover emergencies, China's top information officials said yesterday.
Apart from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which holds regular news conferences, more Chinese ministries, such as public security, education and health, will have their spokespersons briefing the media every month in the new year, State Council Information Office Minister Cai Wu said.
The office is also pushing other powerful departments, like the Ministry of Commerce and the National Development and Reform Commission, to come on board, Cai told a press meeting yesterday.
"More and more departments have realized that closer interaction with the media is a boost rather than a barrier to their work," Cai said.
Sometimes, department leaders are busy, and sometimes they are not accustomed to facing the media; through increased exposure and push from journalists, more will offer to talk to the press, Cai said.
"It can be expected that our media friends will soon have more chances to have more and better exchanges with ministers and vice ministers," he said.
The office yesterday updated contact information for spokespersons at 69 State Council departments and announced a round-the-clock office hotline: (8610)-65592311.
In addition to those departments, 27 provinces and municipalities have also established their own news release systems.
Commenting on the sometimes-slow information flow during emergencies, the office's deputy chief Wang Guoqing said the State Council attaches great importance to the handling of emergencies and crises, and the response to the media in such situations.
The 40 training workshops offered to spokespersons from provincial and central government departments this year included emergency management and contingency plans.
"I believe (getting your) interviews will become more and more convenient in the future," he said.
Wang also said China is revising a decade-old statute regarding foreign journalists' operations in the country.
The State Council office arranged for dozens of officials from ministries and commissions and from the Communist Party of China Central Committee departments to give a record 68 press conferences at the office hall this year.
Thanks to the office's efforts to build a three-tier information release system at the office, State Council department and provincial government levels, 1,088 press meetings have been held so far this year, compared with about 900 last year, Cai said.
In response to foreign media's requests, the office has also helped journalists to report from the scene on China's bird flu control, intellectual property rights protection and anti-narcotics drive, he said.
In another development, the central government will launch a new English website: www.gov.cn, on New Year's day to offer comprehensive information about every aspect of China. The website's French, Spanish and Korean versions will be launched later.
The English version provides information on travel, study, employment, business, immigration, marriage and child adoption.
"We will have online interaction not only with Chinese, but also foreigners," said an editor of the State Council's website.
(China Daily December 30, 2005)