BEIJING, Nov. 6 (Xinhua) -- China granted press credentials to employees of news websites on Friday, giving interview and reporting rights to online media for the first time.
The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) and the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT)issued press cards to the first group of 594 reporters from 14 "major central news portals," including the authorized Chinese government portal, the official websites of People's Daily and Xinhua News Agency and the portal for Tibet. The employees of commercial news portals such as Sina and Sohu were not included.
"The press cards distributed today are the same as those held by traditional media. Card holders enjoy the same reporting rights, responsibilities and obligations," CAC spokesperson Jiang Jun said at the distribution ceremony.
The two authorities will continue to issue the cards to qualified and experienced reporters of online media until the end of 2016, but not to commercial portals. Professional training will be offered to online media reporters.
China previously banned most websites from reporting on news, only allowing them to edit and publish news from traditional media. Despite this, there had been a trend for websites to follow up their own stories, interview sources and release news in their own name.
The move will regulate interviews and editing, improve writer's abilities and push their transformation to "strongholds for online news publicity," said SAPPRFT deputy director Wu Shangzhi.
The Internet has become the "main battlefield for ideologies [and] a front for the wrestling of opinions," according to a CAC statement released after the ceremony.
Online-media reporters are expected to actively expound socialist core values and amplify the mainstream voice in the Internet, making cyber space "clear and bright," it said.
Yang Gu, chief editor of gmw.cn, the Guangming Daily portal, said it would ban reporters found to have abused their rights for personal benefits and eliminate fake and paid-for news. More than 40 employees of his website were given press cards on Friday.
CAC spokesperson Jiang Jun said the reporting rights would also help enhance openness as online media have played an increasingly important role in news spreading.
Authorities are making efforts to create sound conditions for qualified online media and their reporters' work, in the hope that they can be motivated to write better quality news stories, according to the CAC statement.
Previously staff of news portals often hit a brick wall when trying to secure interviews without a professional certificate.
"I was often troubled when friends ask about my job. I don't know even for myself that I am a reporter or an editor or something else," said Wei Jing, who was officially confirmed a reporter after three years of writing for China.org.cn, a portal for the central government. "This was a historical moment for Chinese online media."
Wang said she will feel more "bold" when interviewing sources.
As online media now enjoy reporting rights they also should be responsible for their reporting, Jiang said, adding that they would all be managed under the traditional media umbrella.
"Openness is based on norms, and this [move] is a demonstration of managing according to law and strengthening the norms," Jiang said.