Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Wednesday condemned a recent wave of sanctions against Chinese business media and journalists over their coverage of the private sector.
Last week, the weekly magazine Business Watch was suspended for a month, while Bao Yueyang (包月陽) was fired on Wednesday as the editor of another business newspaper.
“The free flow of business and financial information is still not a reality in China,” RSF said.
“There is an urgent need for the Propaganda Department, local authorities and both state and private-sector companies to stop obstructing investigative reporting by the business media. We call for the sanctions against Business Watch and Bao Yueyang to be rescinded,” it said.
Business Watch was suspended for a month at the beginning of this month after it published an investigative report in its March issue about the state-owned power company Grid Corp. The reporter had used internal company documents for the report, which Chinese authorities did not appreciate, RSF said.
This was not the first time the Xiamen-based magazine got into trouble over its investigative reporting. Two years ago, it was suspended for two months for an article about Tianjin Mayor Huang Xingguo (黃興國).
In the other case, Bao was removed from his job as editor at the China Economic Times and transferred to another post at the Development Publishing Co following the publication’s coverage of contaminated vaccines in Shanxi Province.
After wide coverage of the matter since March, the authorities restricted reporting on Chinese Web sites and ordered traditional media to limit themselves to dispatches from state-owned Xinhua news agency, RSF said.
Bao is well known for encouraging his reporters to investigate sensitive issues.
Also recently, Chinese authorities ordered the daily Nanfang Dushi Bao to remove from its Web site an editorial expressing reservations about the philanthropic practices of some Chinese firms, RSF said.
Meanwhile in Hong Kong, as many as 10 foreign and local reporters have been briefly arrested in the past few weeks, RSF reported.
At least three Japanese journalists and several South Korean journalists were arrested at Dalian and Tianjin during the visit last week of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. Four Hong Kong journalists sent to Sichuan Province to cover a corruption story linked to the 2008 earthquake were prevented from working by local officials, who escorted them to a police station, RSF said.
RSF urged US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to raise the issue of press freedom with Chinese diplomats during a human rights dialogue between China and the US that started yesterday.