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German broadcaster questioned on sacking of Chinese blogger

Chinese journalists and activists have questioned the motivations of Germany's international public broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW), after it chose not to renew the contract of prominent Chinese activist Su Yutong.

Su, an exiled Chinese blogger had been working for DW since 2010 but was informed on August 19, 2014 that her contract would not be renewed in 2015. Su is one of the most prolific bloggers of DW's Chinese-language website.

A statement released by Deutsche Welle said Su's contract would not be renewed because she had released information about internal company meetings and publically criticized her co-worker. Su however argues there is more to her dismissal. Other Chinese journalists and activists have also joined the debate and questioned the broadcaster on its direction.

Su told the IFJ that Deutsche Welle's Director of Programs, Gerda Meuer, said Su was not suitable for the new direction of the Chinese language service and accused her of violating DW's rules two months previously. Su was sacked one day after a protest at DW's headquarters in Bonn by Wu'er Kaixi, a former leader of the 1989 student protests in Beijing.

This week it was reported in The New York Times that Su's case stemmed from a column published on the DW website on June 4, the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre and written by regular columnist, the Beijing-based media consultant Frank Sieren. In the column, Sieren argued that some Western media outlets were unfairly critical of the Chinese government over the massacre and said that "1989 remains a one-off in recent Chinese history."

Su admitted that she had expressed her personal feelings about the column on June 4. She said she also forwarded an altered "tank man" image, which was posted by another blogger through her personal Twitter account. However, she said, management had not issued a warning or claimed that she had violated any internal rules.

"In September 2013, when the new DW Director General Peter Limbourg visited us, he did say he wanted us not to produce only negative reports about the Chinese Government but instead to give the Chinese Government some positive news coverage. He also said he had visited the Chinese Ambassador to Germany," Su said.

The blogger also said she felt some of her colleagues had been exercising subtle self-censorship since the new director's visit and that they "either rarely report human rights violations in China or delete some opinions of the dissidents".

The IFJ Asia-Pacific office said: "Deutsche Welle is an internationally recognized public broadcaster with strong ethics and commitment to fair and diverse broadcasting. While Deutsche Welle has publicly responded and defended its position in this matter, the dismissal of a respected alternative journalist voice is always a cause for concern."

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