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Four journalists put behind bars for extortion
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Four people were imprisoned in south China's island province of Hainan for blackmailing a local official by using false journalistic identities.

Lin Minghao, Huang Jin, Zhuang Shuai and Chen Jieyong, were given jail terms of three to eight years by a local court in Sanya.

The four men, claiming to be reporters from China Legal News magazine, blackmailed 100,000 yuan (US$13,300) from an official surnamed Lin in Fenghuang County in return for not reporting on the unauthorized commercial use of a piece of farmland.

Lin alerted the police and arranged to meet Huang and Zhuang on July 4 in order to hand over the money. The police were lying in wait.

The four men are all employees of China Legal News but the company's magazine was banned from being published in 2004 because it was registered in Hong Kong and had not been approved by the authorities, and its employees were involved in cheating and extortion, according to the General Administration of Press and Publication.

But after it was removed from the newsstands it registered a media and advertising company and set up subsidiaries in provinces around the country. The four defendants were working for its subsidiary in Hainan.

The court ruled that China Legal News does not have reporting rights and the four employees were charged with extortion because they were not accredited journalists and the basic facts in their report were unverified.

The court also said the four men had extorted another 15,000 yuan (US$2,000) from the administrators of a scenic spot in Baoting County of Hainan for covering up "irregularities".

(Xinhua News Agency October 25, 2007)

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