China says new restrictions to come on terrorism reporting

BEIJING: China said Monday it would impose new restrictions on media reports about domestic terrorism, as it continued to deride a French journalist being forced to leave the country for questioning Beijing's claims about the terrorist threat it faces.

The official Xinhua News Agency said the restrictions are mandated under an anti-terrorism law passed over the weekend, but gave few details.

"The various restrictions intend to prevent copy-cat crimes, protect front-line anti-terror workers and keep society from the harm of hearsay," Xinhua said. "It is for the common good that foreign media outlets in China as well as domestic media organisations comply with these regulations and make their due contribution to the global fight against terror."

The new law contains a clause saying that news organisations should aid in the propaganda struggle against terrorism, as well as some general restrictions on what can be reported.

"No institutions or individuals may fabricate or disseminate information on forged terrorist incidents, report on or disseminate details of terrorist activities that might lead to imitation, nor publish scenes of cruelty or inhumanity about terrorist activities," the law says.

It was rubber-stamped by the national legislature on Sunday amid concerns its requirements that tech companies share information with the government could hurt business interests and further infringe upon freedom of speech and other human rights.

Beijing has asserted that China is a victim of global terrorism following violent ethnic clashes involving members of the Muslim minority Uighur community in the far northwest region of Xinjiang. Foreign experts, however, have argued that there is no proof of foreign ties and that the violence in Xinjiang is homegrown and largely a reaction to oppressive government policies.

The law's passage followed China's declaration Saturday that it will not renew press credentials for Ursula Gauthier, a longtime Beijing-based journalist for the French news magazine L'Obs, effectively expelling her for questioning the official line equating ethnic violence in Xinjiang with global terrorism.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters Monday that Gauthier must leave by the end of the year after failing to apologise for a November 18 story "saturated with sympathy for terrorists."

Gauthier's report "blatantly championed acts of terrorism and slaughter of innocent civilians, igniting indignation among the Chinese people," Lu said.

China's campaign of vilification against Gauthier has drawn protests from the French government and media organisations, underscoring the government's often hostile approach to foreign media. Journalists for China's own entirely state-controlled media work under much tighter restrictions.

Gauthier wrote that some of the violent attacks in Xinjiang involving Uighurs (pronounced WEE-gurs) showed no evidence of foreign ties. She disputed China's efforts to equate the Xinjiang struggle with the November attacks in Paris that left 130 people dead, referencing Chinese leader Xi Jinping by name.

Gauthier has denied the accusations against her and said she is prepared to leave on December 31. She would become the first foreign journalist forced to leave China since 2012, when American Melissa Chan, then working for Al Jazeera in Beijing, was expelled.