China journalists facing violence

14:16, August 02, 2010      

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A series of separate reports of aggression directed at Chinese journalists - all in the span of less than a week - has prompted a public outcry and call by the government to ensure the safety of reporters on the job.

The latest incident occurred Friday when an editor and several journalists of National Business Daily were attacked by four men claiming to work for BaWang International, a shampoo maker whose products have been reported to contain toxic chemicals.

Last month, the State Food and Drug Administration issued a statement saying the dioxane levels in BaWang's shampoo were not harmful to consumers' health.

Xu Yuanyuan, the newspaper's spokeswoman, told the Global Times Sunday that the newspaper was awaiting a response from BaWang, and he said he wants those responsible to be brought to justice.

Police detained a man claiming to be a sales manager for BaWang International, along with three others, after a tussle broke out between the newspaper's reporters and four men who came to the newspaper's office, demanding to see the paper's editor and the reporter who wrote about a government investigation into the company's shampoo, Xu said.

"We condemn and distain any act that endangers reporters' safety and disrupts the normal work of our paper," Xu said, adding that the newspaper plans to set up a reporters' committee along with other Chinese media outlets to protect the legal rights of journalists.

On Thursday, BaWang issued a statement on its official microblog, saying it had sent the companies' senior officials to Shanghai to investigate the matter and will react seriously if the report about the row is true.

On Thursday, police in Suichang county, Zhejiang Province, scrapped an arrest warrant for Qiu Ziming, a reporter with the Shanghai bureau of the Economic Observer, who did a whistle-blowing investigative report of insider trading by a Shenzhen-listed battery manufacturer in Zhejiang Province. The police also came to the newspaper's office to apologize to the newspaper and Qiu.

He had been on the run after receiving a tip-off before police informed his newspaper Tuesday about the arrest warrant.
In response, storythe General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP), China's press watchdog, said Friday that it would render support to journalists who are committed to a "normal and legal watchdog role."

Another incident involved reporter Chen Xiaoying, from the Shenzhen News Center of China Times, who was attacked Thursday by a man claiming to be an insider from the Shenzhen International Enterprise Co, according to China Times.

Chen wrote a story last month saying Shenzhen International Enterprise was suspected of transferring assets. Shenzhen International Enterprise on Friday denied any involvement in the attack.

Huang Xinghong, a journalist with the Yunnan-based Spring City Evening News, told the Global Times Sunday that "He felt angry that coworkers were beaten or intimidated while performing their duties."

"Even if it is some reporters' fault, legal recourse must be sought instead of the threat of force," Huang said.

Zhan Jiang, a journalism professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University, said, "Apparently the media's watchdog function has drawn the ire of some parties that are trying to get revenge on journalists for economic losses" by reports.

"The media's supervisory role is not fully protected under the current legal system. What's worse, some provisions may be exploited to be used against reporters," he said.

Wang Sixin, a professor of media law at the Communication University of China, said current laws and some regional governments have a murky understanding about the role that the media ought to play in society, leading to the lack of a theoretical foundation for the protection of Chinese reporters.

However, Wang did admit that some Chinese reporters violate professional ethics, resulting in a loss of public trust in journalists.

Reporters in China used to belong to one of the most respected professions and were referred to as "uncrowned kings."
But their image became gradually tarnished after a spate of high-profile scandals involving reporters taking bribes from interest groups.

Receiving red envelopes or writing paid news is a hidden rule in China's media, understandably decried by the public.
But the image of reporters seems to have improved after more reports have exposed corporate and official misconduct.

In a July survey co-administrated by Xiaokang magazine and Tsinghua University, reporters ranked No. 5 for the most trustworthy among 29 different groups of people in China, after soldiers, farmers, teachers and students.

By Song Shengxia, Global Times

(Editor:张心意)

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