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Government tightens clamps on Internet usage

(IFJ/IFEX) - Brussels, 9 June 2009 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is alarmed that China is preparing to launch new filtering measures to monitor and control internet use.

According to a May 19 announcement by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, from July 1 all new computers will be automatically installed with an internet filter programmed to ban and block any content considered "unhealthy" by the Central Government.

The announcement also reportedly detailed plans for all accessible websites in China to be recorded, and for all computer manufacturers and software service providers to be required by February 2010 to give information to the Ministry about computer sales.

Public funds will be used to pay for the updated filtering system for the first year, the Ministry said.

The new rules "could affect the media industry because not all media workers have money to install some software on their computer in order to get over the firewall", a journalist told the IFJ.

A blogger added, "It really doesn't change so much for people who had already installed software to get over the firewall. But this could be detrimental to mass society expressing their views, even about things that are nothing to do with any sensitive topics."

Since January 5, seven government departments including the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP) have announced a scheme to eliminate local access to online pornography and content that could "upset social harmony".

Several thousands of websites have been blocked as a result, particularly those with references to topics such as the June 4 Tiananmen Square anniversary and the pro-democracy Charter 08 petition.

"As a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), China's Government has acknowledged the importance of all people's ability to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any form of media," IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.

"Enforced filtering of all new computer software and internet use appears designed to silence free expression, and thus contradicts commitments made by China that it is serious about becoming a more open and free society."

The IFJ urges China's Central Government to honour the promises it made as part of its bid for the Beijing Olympic Games - namely, to abide by international legal instruments that promote the right to freedom of expression and speech.

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