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Editor dismissed for online comments

(IFJ/IFEX) - June 04, 2012 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the decision to suspend, and later dismiss, the Editor of a newspaper in southern China for online comments deemed critical of the government.

Yu Chen, 39, the Editor of the in-depth investigative news desk of the Guangdong-based national newspaper, Southern Metropolitan Newspaper, was suspended, and later forced to resign, from his position because of online comments he made using the newspaper's microblog account.

A journalist told IFJ that Yu had mistakenly used the official account of the newspaper's Sina microblog to comment via his cell phone. Yu's comment was made in response to a post questioning whether China's Ministry of National Defence should serve the Chinese Communist Party or the country as a whole.

Yu's response was considered unacceptable and was immediately deleted from the microblog account, as was the original message to which he had responded.

"It's hard to know for sure the cause of Yu's suspension", a local journalist said. "However the working environment in China is very difficult at present, because of a number of recent sensitive cases and the upcoming holding of the 18th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party."

Yu is the first Chinese journalist to be forced to resign from a newspaper because of comments made online. Another journalist, Li Delin, was previously punished by police in March after merely forwarding an online message.

"China cannot enjoy true freedom when individuals can be punished for exercising their right to freedom of expression", IFJ Asia-Pacific Office said.

"Cases persist of individuals being punished for messages forwarded or created, without any proper explanation being given as to which laws they have broken".

The IFJ urges China's authorities to respect the right of China's citizens to express themselves online.

The IFJ also urges the Editor-in-Chief of the Southern Metropolitan Newspaper to reconsider the decision to dismiss Yu Chen from his position.
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