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Investigative journalist forced to resign

(IFJ/IFEX) - 16 November 2011 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is deeply frustrated by reports that another prominent investigative journalist has been forced to resign after reporting on a failure of process in the judicial system in Shanghai.

Yang Haipeng, an investigative journalist for Shanghai's Caijing magazine, was forced to resign on October 13, a week before his wife was sentenced to four years imprisonment for corruption.

Yang's resignation follows the dismissal in August of Chen Zhong, the president of Nan Feng Chuang (NFC) magazine, for being "unable to correctly censor the magazine's articles and for taking things in the wrong political direction". Other publications, including Jinghua and Great Wall Magazine, have also recently been stripped of their investigative functions by Chinese authorities in recent months.

According to a report from the World Journal on November 15, Yang signed his termination letter in response to a meeting with the editor-in-chief of Caijing. It is alleged that the meeting took place a week before the sentencing date of Yang's wife, and sought Yang's commitment to remain silent on the case.

The report suggests that Yang's forced resignation was likely the result of pressure placed on Caijing by the government of Shanghai. Yang had reportedly upset Shanghai government officials by publicising an apparent injustice in proceedings of Shanghai's Minhang District People's Court. In a report on Yang's microblog he claimed that the judge of the court had brought a guilty verdict against his wife, without hearing evidence from the alleged recipient of the bribe.

Yang graduated in law and trained as a judge before joining the media industry. In his reporting he has uncovered numerous cases of malpractice by local government officials.

"It is quite common for authorities to arbitrarily conduct indirect retaliation against people it sees as a threat," IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

"Although we are not surprised at such actions, we are disappointed that it appears the hands of media employers were tied, not only by government regulatory bodies but also by external political forces."

The IFJ urges the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP), and the All-China Journalists' Association, to establish an individual investigative group, including independent third parties, to investigate Yang's case and determine whether there has been any undue interference by the government into the operations of the media.

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