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"China Economic Times" dissolves investigative news department

(IFJ/IFEX) - July 19, 2011 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is deeply frustrated to learn that a renowned investigative journalist and his team of reporters were suddenly suspended from their duties because of a management decision.

China Economic Times journalist Wang Keqin and five of his colleagues in the newspaper's investigative news team were suspended from their duties July 18. It is unclear whether the journalists will lose their jobs or be assigned different roles at the organisation.

The newspaper, under the control of the Development Research Centre of The State Council of China, officially announced on July 18 that the Times must ramp up its economic news coverage to reach its desired market niche. This in turn led to the decision to dissolve the investigative news team, which was discussed by the board of management and approved by the Centre.

Wang is a prominent investigative journalist and tutor in journalism at a university in Beijing. Along with the spoiled vaccines case, Wang has reported on a black market taxi industry and alleged corruption at Investment Security in Lanzhou, Gansu Province. Wang also campaigns for tuberculosis patients to receive public donations to provide treatment for their long-term illness through the China Social Assistance Foundation, which is registered under the Ministry of Civil Affairs of China.

"While it is entirely reasonable for a media organisation to target particular markets, in this instance it appears absurd that the China Economic Times could not sustain an investigative reporting unit - particularly given the current team's success," the IFJ Asia-Pacific said.

"We fear this move is an attempt to remove controversial news, which could set a precedent for other media organisations in China."

A source, who did not wish to be named, told the IFJ that the decision was made by Han Liyun, publisher of the Times since May 2010, who wished to see less hard-hitting coverage in the pages of the newspaper.

"We don't believe this decision came from the Central Propaganda Department because Wang has been successfully reporting several influential news events such as the Shanxi spoiled vaccine case and others without receiving any punishment from the Department," the source said.

"We believe the decision was made by Han because he dislikes too many 'negative' news reports being published.

"Han quarreled with Wang a number of times over news coverage."

Han, 47, assumed the position of publisher of the Times in May 2010 after his predecessor Bao Yueyang was removed from his position because he published reports on the Shanxi spoiled vaccines case.

Another source told the IFJ that Wang was warned by a local security officer not to leave China without informing them of the reason.

The IFJ urges the Development Research Centre of The State Council of China and the management board of China Economic Times to swiftly reconsider its decision and reinstate Wang and his team.

What other IFEX members are saying

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