In the lead-up to the 2008 Olympic Games, Beijing has increased censorship of the Internet, imposing a new law that bans video and audio postings on the Web by Chinese citizens without a license. Violators face the threat of prison.
Under the new rules, anyone operating a Web site that provides video content or allows users to upload or download videos will have to obtain a license from the Ministry of Information Industry (MII) and the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) and must renew the license every three years.
Press freedom advocates are outraged.
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"This is an unprecedented act of censorship," said a Reporters Without Borders spokesperson. "Under the pretext of developing China's media industry, the authorities are stepping up their control of online content, especially in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics."
The Chinese government said in a statement issued Thursday that those who provide Internet audio and video services "must serve socialist ideals and the Chinese people."
Last August, a number of Chinese Internet companies, including Yahoo!.cn and MSN.cn, signed a conduct pledge with the Chinese authorities to try to get bloggers to register under their real names, to keep registration details and to delete blog content that was wrong or inappropriate.
In 2007, China blocked access to more than 2,500 Web sites and arrested six bloggers. It continues to be the world's biggest prison for Internet users, with a total of 51 cyberdissidents currently detained.