The employees of China's portal websites will not be granted journalist's certificates and have no right to conduct news interviews, said an official of the General Administration of Press and Publication.
Commenting on a blackmail case in which a "website journalist" extorted 3.8 million yuan (US$475,000) from a company by using an illegal journalist's certificate, the official said only newspapers, news agencies, radio and TV stations are authorized to conduct news interviews in China.
A Beijing court sentenced Li Ling to four years in jail for trying to extort money from a health products company. Li had abused his position working for a website that handled consumer complaints.
Reporters employed by websites owned by authorized news organizations may apply for journalist's certificates, but other website workers will not be certified, the official said.
Those websites and their employees who conduct illegal news interviews in China will be punished according to law and regulations, he added.
Over 700,000 people work for news organizations in China and 180,000 have been granted certificates by the General Administration of Press and Publication.
Other cases of "reporters" blackmailing people without formal certificates were reported earlier this year. In most cases, they contacted companies with problems and asked for "silence money," threatening to print negative reports if not paid off.
China's press administration reviews reporters' conduct annually, revoking the certificates of reporters who are unethical.
(Xinhua News Agency November 23, 2006)