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Loose Media Rules Move Closer to Law
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The top legislature yesterday advanced legislation that would allow the media to report on public emergencies without the government's authorization in a bid to improve transparency.

The draft emergency response law, tabled at the 28th session of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) for a second reading, requires governments that take charge of emergencies to provide "unified, accurate and timely information about the events and their developments".

Compared to the first draft, which included fines of as much as 100,000 yuan (US$13,100) for media outlets that report on emergencies without authorization or spread fabricated information, the second draft only bans the making up or spreading of false information.

In his report to the standing committee, Wang Maolin, vice-director of the NPC law committee, said the provision on restricting the media sparked heated discussion among lawmakers during the draft's first review last June.

He said some legislators argued that it was improper to restrict media reports, while some local people's congresses also questioned the restriction.

The people's congress in Dalian, Liaoning, said the expression "without authorization" was ambiguous and could let local governments to cover up the truth.

Local congresses in Chongqing Municipality and Hubei and Shandong provinces also argued that transparency is a key part of handling emergencies and that the media's contributions should be affirmed.

After considering the matter, legislators decided to eliminate the mention of fines from the draft. It now stipulates that offenders will be warned, punished or prosecuted. If their offences lead to serious consequences, their business licenses will be revoked as well.

(China Daily June 25, 2007)

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