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China’s Besieged Journalists

Posted by Author on August 4, 2010

Wall Street Journal, Aug. 3, 2010 –

Practicing journalism in China is a hazardous business. The Committee to Protect Journalists’ annual report released last December lists 24 Chinese staff writers and free-lancers known to be in prison—more than in any other country. Then there is the daily grind of censorship, harassment and even violence designed to prevent reporters from exposing official or corporate wrongdoing.

So a recent case showing that the public supports the right to report and write freely offers a glimmer of hope. Qiu Ziming, a reporter for the Economic Observer newspaper, produced a series of stories in June accusing Zhejiang Kan Specialty Materials of insider trading and other offenses. The company’s friends in the local police retaliated by putting Mr. Qiu’s name on a national wanted list.

That got Mr. Qiu’s colleagues up in arms. They spread the news on the Internet, sparking a grassroots movement to support the reporter, who went into hiding. Eventually even state-controlled China Central Television was on his side, and the Zhejiang police were forced to withdraw the warrant and apologize to Mr. Qiu.

It’s encouraging that Chinese society affirmed the journalist’s role as a watchdog and the local government backed down. But it’s also an isolated case. The central government’s repression of independent reporting is only growing fiercer. On July 23, for example, a court in Xinjiang sentenced newspaper editor Gheyret Niyaz to 15 years in prison for “endangering state security.” His crime: granting an interview to a Hong Kong-based magazine about the riots in Urumqi last year.

Wall Street Journal

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