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Last Updated: Monday, 26 June 2006, 10:24 GMT 11:24 UK
China media face disaster fines
By Daniel Griffiths
BBC News, Beijing

Songhua river bear Harbin, November 2005
A chemical leak last year brought promises of more openness
China is considering imposing financial penalties on media outlets which report emergency incidents without prior government agreement.

Media organisations could face fines of more than $10,000 if they disobey.

It is unclear when the regulations might come into force and whether they cover international media organisations as well as local ones.

China's authorities have always exerted tight control over the coverage of emergencies.

They often impose news blackouts on stories they feel might damage the image of the Communist Party.

Last year, officials in north-east China at first covered up a toxic chemical spill in the Songhua River, which meant nine million residents in the city of Harbin were without public water supplies for nearly a week.

These proposed new rules are part of an ongoing government campaign to tighten up on China's already limited media freedoms.

In recent months, several journalists and political activists who have exposed official corruption and wrongdoing have been arrested or imprisoned.

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