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People's Daily Online>>China Society

The regional news muzzle

By Lin Meilian (Global Times)

07:56, January 13, 2012

News editors, who know they can't very well dig up too much dirt on local leaders without risking their jobs, often send their reporters to other regions to report on stories they know their readers want to read.

While local officials often have the power to skew the news that happens in their jurisdiction, they have little interest or means to squelch stories in their local publications that originate outside their jurisdiction.

Media watchers are now concerned about a directive from Hubei provincial government, issued early this month that appears to ban journalists from Hubei from conducting investigative reports outside the province. It demands that local media outlets ”firmly grasp correct guidance of public opinion and not conduct cross-regional supervision.”

Media-hostile province

It seems that the province is sending a signal to other provinces that ”our reporters are not digging dirt in your province, so in return please stop yours from digging dirt in ours,” Zhou Peng'an, a well-known blogger and researcher with the Development Research Center in Wuhu, Anhui Province, said on his blog.

Hubei's hard-line reputation for being tough on journalists from other jurisdictions rose to national fame when the Beijing News sent reporter Kong Pu to cover murder charges that had been laid against 21-year-old Deng Yujiao in Hubei in May 2009.

As Kong dug into the story, she found it was by no means an open-and-shut case of murder. She discovered that Deng who worked for a registered massage club that offered no hanky-panky, had been sexually assaulted. She had fought back with a small knife and ended up killing one of the three government officials who attacked her.

Although Kong must have known it was a very sensitive story, she likely never imagined she would also become part of it.

Finding comfort in company, Kong and another reporter with Southern People's Weekly visited Deng's grandmother. Without warning five men showed up and attacked the journalists and confiscated their notes.

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