Beijing is tightening its already firm grip on the news media, with an eye to completely silencing revelations of corruption. But before long, the Chinese government will need a freer press if it wants to avoid ruling over an increasingly cynical people.

Earlier this month, China announced that press credentials would be issued only to journalists who sign a secrecy agreement prohibiting disclosure of any information without permission from their employers. This is a further restrictive step in a broader government effort to muzzle journalists by preventing them from freelancing their material and their opinions outside the confines of the media outlets they work for.

The government’s ambition is to create a press that only reports officially released information, which is a common urge of authoritarian rule but difficult to enforce, especially with the Internet. Yet a sanitized press will breed further contempt of authority among a public that is all too aware of what is going on.

One of China’s greatest flaws is corruption, which President Xi Jinping has acknowledged by pursuing an anticorruption campaign extending to the highest level of the Communist Party. The fight against corruption is, in fact, a signature feature of Xi’s personal leadership and should be institutionalized throughout government. What he and the party should understand is that a freer press could help greatly as a public instrument against corruption.