[JURIST] International human rights groups have denounced China's release of new media regulations [text] governing the domestic release of news and information by foreign news agencies. The regulations, which give China's official Xinhua News Agency [official website] ultimate rights of approval [JURIST report] over the distribution and release of foreign news content, are being seen as a threat to the free flow of information and the ability to disseminate foreign news in China [JURIST news archive]. Human Rights in China [advocacy website] voiced its particular concern [press release] Monday on the effect the measures will have on the 2008 Beijing Olympics, saying "These latest measures sound a wake-up call to the international community that a closed, state-controlled Olympics is on the horizon." A Chinese Foreign Ministry [official website] spokesman said the rules would not effect media coverage of the Olympics and that they were a continuation of a 1996 cabinet decree regulating economic information.
Under the new rules, released Sunday, foreign news agencies are designated as agents of Xinhua and are subject to an annual review. Xinhua is specifically granted the right to ban [Xinhua report] all news content that will "undermine China's national unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity" or "endanger China's national security, reputation and interests." The measures come in the wake of several other high-profile steps [JURIST report] taken by Chinese authorities in recent months to limit free expression and silence dissent. Reuters has more.