Wed, Jul 27, 2011 - Page 5 News List

Beijing seeks to muzzle press after bullet train crash

AFP, BEIJING

China has banned local journalists from investigating the cause of a deadly high-speed train crash that has triggered public outrage and raised questions over safety, reports said yesterday.

China’s propaganda department issued the order on Sunday, according to a copy of the directives published by the China Digital Times, a US-based site focusing on Internet news from China.

News that journalists had been ordered to focus instead on “touching stories” about blood donors coming forward and free taxi services emerged as the official death toll from Saturday’s crash near Wenzhou rose to 39.

Nearly 200 more were injured when two trains collided during a heavy thunderstorm.

The government ordered the media to “use information released from authorities” and not “conduct independent interviews,” according to the directive, details of which also appeared on several blogs in China.

Saturday’s accident was the worst ever to hit the country’s high-speed rail network, which only opened in 2007. Authorities are investigating the cause of the accident, but Web users and the media have questioned why the second train was not made to stop when the first was brought to a halt. They also questioned the signaling system.

Parts of China’s state-run media have joined in the criticism and yesterday some state media outlets still appeared to be ignoring the directives.

The front page of the English-language Global Times yesterday carried the headline “Anger mounts at lack of answers” and interviews with family members of victims who questioned the official death toll.

However, in a commentary, the daily said that safety “should be the core principle of China’s development,” but that “blind and hasty finger-pointing should be avoided.”

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