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58 punished for hush money scandal
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Fifty-eight people who were paid hush money not to report on a fatal coal mine accident in Shanxi province in September have been punished, the General Administration of Press and Publication said on Thursday.

Four journalists, 26 media workers and 28 bogus reporters were paid a total of 319,300 yuan ($47,000) not to report on a mining accident on Sept 20 in Hongtong, Shanxi, in which one man died, the administration said in a circular.

The four genuine reporters, who were paid 35,000 yuan, have been sacked or had their press passes revoked, the administration said.

"All of them have been put on a blacklist and are barred from working as journalists for the next five years," Nong Tao, a press official with the administration, told China Daily.

Most of the hush money had since been returned, he said.

Zhang Junli, a reporter with Modern Consumption News, who was paid 14,000 yuan, was sacked and fined 30,000 yuan, the circular said.

The newspaper's chief editor Guo Zhiyong was ordered to resign.

Xu You, bureau chief of Shanxi Pictorial, who was paid 1,000 yuan, was also sacked, while the president of the magazine was given a disciplinary warning, it said.

Zhang Shikai, deputy editor of Shanxi Science and Technology Review, who was paid 10,000 yuan, was sacked, and the publication was ordered to suspend its operations for one month.

Niu Jianli, a reporter with Science and Technology Review, who was paid 10,000 yuan, had his press pass revoked, the circular said.

Fourteen employees of 10 media organizations, including China Education TV, received a total of 132,700 yuan in bribes. They were all ordered to return the money, and some of them were sacked or fined, it said.

Twenty-eight bogus journalists have been charged with extorting 151,600 yuan.

One of them, Liu Xiaobing, who claimed to work for the Legal Daily in Shanxi, was paid 39,500 yuan, and has been arrested, it said.

His accomplice, Li Juanping, an employee of the newspaper, is still wanted by police.

The coal mine's Party secretary and the general manager were also sacked for their involvement in the scandal, the circular said.

Dai Xiaojun, a journalist with West Times in Beijing, broke the scandal on Sept 27 on his blog.

Nong said the press administration is currently planning a 100-day campaign to crack down on bogus journalists.

"We are discussing a series of regulations," he said.

(China Daily November 28, 2008)

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