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China: Alarming trend of violence against journalists (2)

Posted by Author on August 26, 2010

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Dangerous for health, dangerous for journalists

Reporters Without Borders reiterates its call for an exhaustive investigation into an assault on Fang Xuanchang, a science reporter for the magazine Caijing, as he was returning home on 24 June in Beijing. Beaten over the head and back with a steel bar by two unidentified assailants, Fang had to be rushed to hospital. Until now, the police have conducted no more than desultory enquiries into what appears to have been a murder attempt.

Fang told the US magazine Foreign Policy (www.foreignpolicy.com) that his mysterious assailants clearly tried to kill him. But who tried to kill him and why? Fang does not know the identity or motives of his attackers but he has some theories. He thinks for example that they might have been hired by a doctor he criticised in one of his articles. Fang has written about medical charlatans, fake discoveries and the questionable practices of several small health-sector companies.

There are other possible motives for the attack. Fang exposed the presence of genetically-modified cereals in China. In a TV programme, he challenged a scientist’s claim to be able to predict earthquakes. And he exposed a doctor who claimed to have found a miracle cure to cancer.

In another case, on 13 August, the Propaganda Department imposed censorship on reports about Synutra, a brand of milk-powder produced by a company based in the northeastern city of Qingdao. Several media reports had blamed the powder for hormonal problems in young girls. The health ministry issued a denial on 12 August, claiming that the powder had been analysed by nine experts and that no link with the hormonal problems had been established. Thereafter the media were told they could only use the official news agency Xinhua’s dispatches on subject.

Meiri Jingji Xinwen (National Business Daily), a newspaper based in Shanghai, has also paid the price for questioning a product’s quality. A Hong Kong-based newspaper claimed in June that Bawang, a famous herbal shampoo endorsed by film star Jackie Chang in ads, contained a very high level of a carcinogen called dioxane. After Meiri Jingji Xinwen reported these allegations, four people from the Bawang company stormed into its offices on 30 July and threatened the editor and staff.

In May this year, Bao Yueyang was moved from his job as editor of the newspaper Zhongguo Jingji Shibao (China Economic Times) to another post within the Development Publishing Company as a result of his coverage of allegations about contaminated vaccines in Shanxi province. It had been a big story in the Chinese press since March until the authorities restricted reporting on Chinese websites and ordered the traditional media to just use Xinhua’s dispatches. Bao, who refused to comment on his demotion, had a reputation for encouraging his reporters to investigate sensitive issues……(Reporters With Borders)

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