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A newspaper in southwest China has sacked three of its editors and four advertising staff over an ad paying tribute to mothers of protesters killed in the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, report Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontiers, RSF) and Reuters news agency.

References and public discussion to the crackdown, in which the army reportedly crushed hundreds, perhaps thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators in the square, are banned in China.

Li Zhaojun, deputy editor-in-chief of the daily "Chengdu Wanbao", and two other members of the tabloid's editorial office, along with four employees from the advertising department, were dismissed for letting through the one-line ad that was printed on 4 June, the 18th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, an anonymous source told Reuters. The ad, on the lower right corner of page 14 of the paper, read: "Paying tribute to the strong(-willed) mothers of 4 June victims."

Hong Kong's "South China Morning Post" said last Wednesday that a young clerk allowed the tribute to be published because she had never heard of the crackdown. She phoned back the person who placed the ad to ask what 4 June was and he told her it was the date of a mining disaster.

"These three journalists are innocent victims twice over," RSF says. "They let through this ad, because one of their staff didn't know what happened on 4 June 1989, so relentless is censorship about this episode."

A group of organisations and individuals, including Swedish PEN and IFEX members International PEN's Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) and International Publishers Association (IPA), are appealing to the Chinese President Hu Jintao to lift the ban on public discussion of the Tiananmen massacre and pro-democratic movements on the occasion of his visit to Sweden.

The open letter points out the severe lack of free expression in China, including the extensive supervision and control of the media, the persecution of different faith groups, and the large number of incarcerated writers and journalists. Meanwhile, the mother of Chinese reporter Shi Tao is suing Internet company Yahoo! for helping officials imprison her son. Shi Tao is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence after sending an email about Chinese media restrictions on Tiananmen - Yahoo! has acknowledged sharing information about him with the Chinese authorities, and has called on China not to punish those who publish political views on the Internet.

Visit these links:
- RSF:
- RSF on Shi Tao:
- Reuters:
- Open letter to President Hu Jintao:
(12 June 2007)

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