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RSF concerned over spate of sanctions against business media

(RSF/IFEX) - 12 May 2010 - Reporters Without Borders condemns a recent wave of sanctions against the business media and journalists in connection with their coverage of the private sector. In the past few days, the magazine Business Watch was suspended for a month and journalist Bao Yueyang was fired as the editor of a business newspaper.

"The free flow of business and financial information is still not a reality in China," Reporters Without Borders said. "There is an urgent need for the Propaganda Department, local authorities and both state and private-sector companies to stop obstructing investigative reporting by the business media. We call for the sanctions against Business Watch and Bao Yueyang to be rescinded."

On the eve of a new round of talks in the ongoing Human Rights Dialogue between China and the United States, Reporters Without Borders urges US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to raise these press freedom issues in a frank manner with China's diplomats.

Business Watch was suspended for a month at the start of May in connection with an investigative report in its March issue about the state power company Grid Corp. The authorities did not appreciate the fact that the reporter had used internal company documents. The magazine, which is based in Xiamen, was suspended for two months a few years ago for an article about the mayor of Tianjin.

Bao Yueyang was moved from his job as editor of China Economic Times to another post with the Development Publishing Company as a result of his coverage of allegations about contaminated vaccines in Shanxi province. The news had been a major story in the Chinese press since March until the authorities restricted reporting on Chinese websites and ordered the traditional media to use the official news agency Xinhua's dispatches.

Bao, who has refused to comment on his dismissal, had a reputation for encouraging his reporters to investigate sensitive issues.

In a separate incident, the China Media Project recently reported that the authorities ordered the leading daily Nanfang Dushi Bao's website to remove an editorial expressing reservations about philanthropic practices by Chinese companies.

In another case, Zhang Hong was fired as deputy editor of the Economic Observer newspaper in March for helping to draft a joint editorial published by several newspapers about the need to reform the internal passport system known as the "hukou."

Around 10 foreign and Hong Kong journalists have meanwhile been briefly detained in the past few weeks. At least three Japanese journalists and several South Korean journalists were arrested at Dalian and Tianjin during North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's visit to China. Later, four Hong Kong journalists who were in Sichuan province to cover a corruption story linked to the 2008 earthquake were prevented from working by local officials, who escorted them to a police station.

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