China should extend media freedoms it now offers foreign reporters to domestic journalists too, rights groups said, but added that the signs were not encouraging this would happen.

China on Friday made a last minute extension of media freedoms for foreign reporters, enshrining rights originally granted only for the Olympics.

Foreign journalists will be allowed to travel freely across most of the country for reporting, though access to restive Tibet remains tightly controlled.

But domestic Chinese media has been excluded.

“The Chinese government should answer the calls of its own people,” said Sharon Hom, executive director of Human Rights in China, in a statement seen on Sunday.

“It should respect its own constitution which guarantees press freedom, a right that many Chinese journalists and writers have paid — and are paying — a great price to exercise,” she added.

The group PEN added in a separate report that media controls and lack of freedom of expression for writers remained serious problems some two months after the end of the Olympics.

“If hosting the Olympics was to have encouraged human rights improvements in China, the early returns are certainly discouraging,” it said in a report on its website (

“There are more writers and journalists in prison in China today than there were in December 2007, and dissident writers and journalists who are not in prison face serious restrictions on their movements and on their ability to speak and publish freely,” it said.

But on Sunday, China’s official Xinhua news agency praised the extension of the media freedoms for foreign reporters, saying it showed the country’s determination to continue opening up to the outside world.

“Sadly some foreign media reported inaccurately about China. But I believe with more foreign reporters coming, the proportion of accurate reports will increase,” it quoted Huang Youyi, head of the China International Publishing Group, as saying.