Police investigate journalist's report

0 CommentsPrint E-mail China Daily, August 31, 2010
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The latest police investigation into a journalist reporting negative news has captured the attention of the All-China Journalists' Association (ACJA).

The ACJA said on Monday it is listening to all the parties involved in the case, in which police in East China's Shandong province went to Beijing to examine the circumstances surrounding a journalist's negative news report.

Police from Laiyang of Shandong summoned Wen Liang, 39, from the Beijing-based news portal qianlong.com, for questioning earlier this month.

The Beijing-based China Youth Daily reported that Wen, who previously filed a story on a biotech company in Laiyang that "cheated" to gain financing, was maintaining a low profile in his hometown in Southwest China's Sichuan province and had not returned to Beijing to meet with the police due to "fear and anger" over the investigation.

The latest police intervention in the field of journalism came two months after Zhejiang police wrongly accused a business reporter of allegedly damaging a corporation's reputation and placed him on a wanted list.

On Saturday, Yichun police in Northeast China's Heilongjiang province apologized for mistakenly detaining four reporters covering a plane crash in the area.

"We have received materials related to the (Laiyang) case and we are hearing voices from different parties to study the facts," Jia He, an official with the rights protection division of the ACJA, told China Daily on Monday.

Jia said complaints about inaccurate reporting are usually taken up directly with the news organization or by resorting to litigation.

However, he added, it is procedurally correct for every citizen, including Wen, to cooperate with the police during their inquiries.

According to Jia, although there appeared to be a rising number of incidents in which the police had either challenged or obstructed news reporting, there is not enough objective evidence to conclude that police intervention has become a trend.

The director of the general office of Laiyang public security bureau, who only gave his surname as Wang, rejected China Daily's request for an interview on Monday.

The website qianlong.com published Wen's story on July 21, saying Shandong Hilead Biotechnology Co Ltd "brags about its technology, fabricates sales channels, exaggerates its market, invents its profits and plays up returns..." in the promotional literature on equity financing that it sent to scores of investors.

Wen told the China Youth Daily that he received his information on the story from a confidential source.

On July 23, the publicity department of Laiyang sent a letter to the website, demanding that the copy be removed because Wen had not interviewed the company and his report was flawed.

The story was pulled on July 31 after officials from the department visited the website's management team in Beijing and explained that the story involved illegal competition between Shandong Hilead and another American company over the ownership of a patent.

Wen then returned to his hometown on Aug 8 for his annual leave and received word the next day that police from Laiyang had arrived in Beijing to question him.

Wen said that when Shandong police contacted him they refused to reveal the reason for the inquiry and whether it would result in a case being brought against him.

"These scared me and made me angry," Wen said in explanation for why he had switched off his mobile phone and remained in his hometown, rather than return to Beijing to meet with the police.

Guo Shanhai, director of Laiyang public security bureau, told the China Youth Daily that "the website took the story off the day after the publicity officials' visit, meaning the report was not true and had damaged the company's reputation".

Cheng Mei, professor of the school of journalism and communication at Renmin University of China, said on Monday that police intervention has an adverse impact on the freedom of the press.

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