Page last updated at 09:57 GMT, Wednesday, 16 September 2009 10:57 UK

China city 'to open up to media'

Newspaper featuring Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao speaking to the NPC
Domestic media are still subject to many restrictions

Government officials in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen will soon be required to be more accountable to the media, the city has announced.

From 1 December, officials could be sacked or reprimanded if they do not respond quickly to media requests.

Chinese media is tightly controlled by the state and independent investigative reporting is rare.

Shenzhen's policy follows a relaxation of restrictions on foreign journalists after the Beijing Olympics.

"We are determined to change the random, passive and disorderly situation surrounding government press releases," Su Huijun, the director of Shenzhen's municipal press office, said.

"Shenzhen's regulation will provide a meaningful experiment for this issue in China," Mr Su was quoted as saying by China Daily, the country's main state-run English language newspaper.

Tight restrictions

The city, a huge manufacturing base not far from Hong Kong, has even promised a 24-hour helpline for journalists' enquiries.

Despite promises of more openness for foreign journalists, China's domestic media face tight restrictions.

Independent reporting is only tolerated on issues deemed not to be sensitive by the ruling Communist Party.

Journalists have sometimes been jailed, intimidated or had their newspapers shut down for criticising the ruling Communist Party, says the BBC's Quentin Sommerville in Beijing.

More commonly, reporters know the limits and exercise self-censorship.

Reporting rules for foreigners were eased after the Olympics. And recently, Beijing promised more openness for foreign reporters dealing with government departments.

A new "zero refusal" policy promised answers from officials within 24 hours.

The BBC's Beijing bureau recently tested the new policy, sending 10 questions to 10 separate departments - none of them was answered.

Some said they were too busy to reply, and one claimed it could not receive faxed questions because the government building lacked electricity, says the BBC's Quentin Sommerville.

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