BEIJING, China - A Chinese law imposing fines on media that report emergencies such as riots and natural disasters without official approval could go into effect by October, the government said Tuesday, as a rights group urged Beijing to scrap it.
Critics said the proposed law raised concerns over journalists' right to report on matters of public interest.
News organizations that report on emergencies without authorization or issue fraudulent reports would be fined between $6,250 to $12,500 under the draft law, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
The legislation defines emergencies as industrial accidents, natural disasters, health and public security crises.
The draft law was discussed Monday by Chinese lawmakers in the first of three planned legislative hearings. Following the hearings, the law could come into effect in about four months, Xinhua said.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists on Tuesday urged China not to pass the law.
"The proposal furthers attempts by the administration of Chinese President Hu Jintao to restrict reporting by China's increasingly market-driven press," the group said in a statement.
Xinhua quoted an official with the Legislative Office under the State Council as saying the draft law, which has been under revision since 2003, was "not aimed at controlling the media."
"The focus is on banning the release of false or biased news reports," the report quoted Li Yuede as saying. "If the report did not contain detailed information, it would cause public concern."
Xinhua said some lawmakers were opposed to the current draft of the law and had suggested adding an additional chapter, but the report did not give specifics about the proposed changes.
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