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China Eases Restrictions on Foreign Journalists

Foreign journalists and media monitoring groups have cautiously welcomed China's extension of relaxed rules for foreign journalists.

The Beijing-based Foreign Correspondents' Club of China welcomed the new recognition of foreign reporters' rights to travel where they wish without prior permission and to interview anyone who is willing.

Club president Jonathan Watts urged the Chinese government to ensure that local officials and police respect the new rules.

In a statement released late Friday, the club also called for China to enact legislation protecting journalists' sources and to open areas like Tibet that remain restricted.

Hours before the temporary rules were due to expire, China's Foreign Ministry announced Friday that media freedoms granted to foreign journalists ahead of the Beijing Olympic Games will become permanent.

During a press conference announcing the new rules, the Voice of America asked if there were any additional rules regulating foreign journalists. The VOA reporter told Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao that authorities in Yunnan province cited internal regulations to justify interfering with his reporting ahead of the Olympics. Liu denied that any such undisclosed regulations existed.

The Foreign Correspondents' Club of China said it had received reports of 336 complaints of interference since the rules were introduced in January 2007, including 67 cases of harassment and intimidation during the Games.

In New York, the Committee to Protect Journalists urged China to extend the rules to cover Chinese journalists.