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Senior newspaper staff fired for reporting inflation concerns

(IFJ/IFEX) - 5 February 2012 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is shocked by reports that the entire senior management team of "Biancheng Evening Newspaper", including the editor-in-chief, were sacked after publishing a report in which citizens of Huaihua, a prefecture-level city of Hunan Province in south central China, complained about increased inflation before the Lunar New Year.

On 1 February, the "Biancheng Evening Newspaper" published an article titled, "How does your lunar new year taste?" The article reported a survey of local residents that found that more than 50% of respondents were dissatisfied with increasing inflation, although more than 80% of respondents were satisfied with their social security. In the article, people also complained that the city had not organized any official activities to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

On 3 February, Luo Xiaoming, the newspaper's editor-in-chief, and two deputy editors-in-chief were sacked by the propaganda department of Huaihua. No reason was given for their removal.

According to a Chinese journalist close to story, the government of Huaihua was unhappy with the report on the Lunar New Year which highlighted the city's increasing inflation rate. It is alleged that government officials were concerned that the report implied inaction on their part to address public dissatisfaction caused by rising inflation and a lack of formal Lunar New Year celebrations.

"Biancheng Evening Newspaper" is a sister publication of "Huaihua Daily Newspape", which is managed by the local government of Huaihua.

"The actions of the Huaihua government demonstrate that China's authorities misunderstand the role of the media," IFJ Asia-Pacific office said.

"The media has a duty to reflect popular opinion regarding public policy. This cannot be achieved amid a backdrop of media censorship. This is yet another example of the government of China continuing to view the media as a propaganda arm of the government, rather than a forum for the voice of the people."

The IFJ urges the General Administration of Press and Publication of China to investigate the removal of the senior management team of "Biancheng Evening Newspaper" and order the reinstatement of any staff found to have been sacked without genuine cause.

The IFJ also seeks to remind the State Council of China of their duty to require all levels of government and propaganda departments to meet their obligations to uphold press freedom.

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