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IFJ concerned over threatened magazine closure

(IFJ/IFEX) – 14 November 2011 – The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is concerned by reports of the threatened closure of another investigative magazine in China.

Journalists from Jinghua (titled This Week in English), a magazine affiliated with Jinghua Newspaper, report that all investigative reporting has been ordered to stop after the publication was transferred to the authority of People's Daily, one of the official media outlets of the Chinese Communist Party.

In September, the General Administration of Press and Publications (GAPP) transferred Jinghua Newspaper to the authority of the Propaganda Department of Beijing and restricted it from reporting on news events outside Beijing. Jinghua was assigned to the control of People's Daily.

"Management told staff they could either follow the new editorial line or leave," a Jinghua journalist said.

"Although we are still uncertain about our future, we strongly believe the editorial approach will continue to change. We will become a mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party."

Since September, at least five journalists and editors have left the magazine, reducing the number of editorial staff to approximately twenty people. A meeting between management and staff to discuss the future of the magazine's editorial personnel, scheduled for November 9, was cancelled by management due to a scheduling conflict.

The tightening of control over publications such as Jinghua reflects the new policies of the Central Authority of China. Calls for stricter media monitoring have been made in a number of public speeches by senior officials including President Hu Jintao and leaders of the Communist Party Central Politburo Standing Committee, the Central Propaganda Department and the State Internet Information Office.

Jinghua is the second investigative publication recently forced to close by Chinese authorities. In October, Great Wall Magazine was shut down due to its publication of a number of sensitive investigations, including reports on the Chinese government's failure to conclusively implement its Code of Access to Information and the misuse of psychiatric care to detain petitioners.

"This year has seen journalists in China face their greatest challenges since the pre-Olympic clampdown in 2008," IFJ Asia-Pacific said.

"Heavy-handed editorial controls and attacks on independent investigative reporting have led to pervasive self-censorship and forced many experienced journalists out of the industry."

The IFJ urges the editorial board of People's Daily to respect the autonomy of Jinghua's editorial staff and uphold the principles of press freedom.

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