The All-China Journalists Association (ACJA) on Friday strongly condemned some self-proclaimed "journalists" who had asked for hush money from a colliery, following an accident which killed one miner.
"Those black sheep in journalistic circles asking for hush money should be seriously dealt with," said an ACJA official.
"Journalists' legitimate rights should be effectively protected," he added.
The association's condemnation came as China started to probe dozens of self-proclaimed "journalists" asking for hush money from the Huobaoganhe coal mine in the northern province of Shanxi, the country's major coal production base.
The mine did not report the death to the government after an accident claimed one life on Sept. 20. The State General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP) and the Shanxi Provincial Press and Publication Bureau had sent two teams to investigate the case.
Investigators found that 28 "journalists" with 23 "news organizations" had been to the colliery and claimed the hush money provided by the mine owner "under various names" on September 24 and 25. Only two of the "journalists" are genuine ones holding press cards issued by the GAPP.
The ACJA official said journalists and their organization chiefs involved should be severely punished "without leniency".
"Reporters should abide by laws and regulations and observe disciplines and professional values. 'Paid news' should absolutely be eradicated," he added.
Initial investigations showed that the colliery paid 125,000 yuan (18,380 U.S. dollars) in six deals to self-claimed "news organizations" and "journalists" within one month after the accident, in exchange for not publicizing the death.
The chairman of the coal mine company was removed from his post, according to a local official who promised to harshly punish those involved in the scandal in order to safeguard press integrity.
(Xinhua News Agency October 31, 2008)