Recently released U.S. State Department cables from Wikileaks show that the Chinese government exerts strict control over journalists. Domestic Chinese journalists are particularly under tight restrictions.
In terms of foreign news organizations, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Liu Jianchao said during a late-night press conference in November 2008 that Chinese nationals can only work for foreign media in China in a supporting role. They are not allowed to work for foreign media as reporters.
According to the cable, some journalists simply ignore such official edicts:
...a Chinese employee at the Beijing bureau of the UK newspaper The Times, told PolOff that bureaus sometimes do not bother to register employees with the DSB. The only disadvantage of not joining the DSB, she said, is that unregistered employees are often denied credentials for the National People's Congress and similar official events.
In a separate cable from April 2009, a new “code of conduct” was issued for Chinese nationals working for foreign media. The cable states in part:
The Beijing Service Bureau for Diplomatic Missions, an arm of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that manages hiring of PRC staff by foreign news organizations, recently forced all assistants to attend a briefing and sign a form promising to abide by the code, which also requires them to portray a "positive" image of China to their employers. While several assistants with whom we spoke said they would ignore the rules and continue to conduct de facto independent reporting, an American journalist told us some of her local assistants are now reticent to do reporting work. At least one U.S. news organization has already been called to task for violating the code and, in response, has decided to stop sending local staff to cover news events alone while also adding a foreign journalist's byline to any piece penned by a Chinese employee.