China journalists
Journalists interviewing a couple in Hong Kong, China.Getty Images

The Chinese government has tightened its crackdown on journalists with new regulations that ban reporters from disseminating state secrets and non-public information.

According to a new law, made public through the state-run Xinhua News Agency, journalists are banned from disseminating "information, materials and news products that [they] may deal with during their work, including state secrets, commercial secrets and unpublicised information.

"Reporters, editors and anchor-men should not disseminate state secrets in any form via any media and they should not mention such information in their private exchanges or letters."

The law, issued by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, also asked employers to sign non-disclosure agreements with journalists in accordance with the new rules.

Chinese journalists reacted with outrage to the ban, which does not specify what state secrets and unpublished information are.

One journalist – whose name was not disclosed - expressed her frustration while speaking with Time magazine.

"Is there any official list clarifying what is a state secret and what is not?" she asked. "If we want to cover an official's corruption scandal, is this scandal a state secret? Who knows?"

Some fear that the new law is a sign that censorship will intensify in the country.

Last month, China's media regulator issued another rule according to which the government can stop journalists writing a report if the authorities consider it controversial.

"Journalists and their news organisations are forbidden from initiating critical reporting that has not been approved," the regulation said. The definition of "critical reporting" was not provided.

Journalists who break the rule risk having their press card cancelled. In China, the work of any journalist who operates without a press card is considered illegal.

In April, the Chinese press authorities said that 14,455 press cards had been cancelled since the start of 2013.

There are 32 journalists in jail in China according to a 2013 prison census released by the Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based NGO that promotes press freedom and journalists' rights. Charges include "inciting separatism", "inciting subversion" and "endangering state security."

The latest journalist to be imprisoned by the Chinese government is Gao Yu, a prominent 70-year-old journalist detained in April for allegedly leaking state secrets to a foreign news website.