Newspaper suspended in China in alleged retaliation for investigation of Beijing storm death toll
According to a Radio France Internationale report, The Economic Observer - a weekly newspaper based in China's eastern Shandong province and with offices in Beijing and Shanghai - was ordered to "suspend" its work on August 6 by the local Beijing Government's Cultural Bureau. The reason given was that the paper was not a locally registered media organisation, and as such was publishing illegally. Chinese authorities confiscated all copies of the paper from vendors on August 4.
"It is widely believed that the suspension of The Economic Observer is political retaliation from the local Beijing Government", a journalist from the paper told IFJ. "The situation in the office is very tense. The punishment is clearly because the newspaper disclosed that the local Government had attempted to understate the death toll following the severe storm that hit Beijing on July 21. The government's inability to accurately calculate the death toll has raised questions of the local government's management abilities. Journalists have been ordered not to speak publically with anyone."
Five publications were targeted by the Chinese Government's Cultural Bureau under the banner of a new campaign 'fighting illegal publications". The Economic Observer has been circulated throughout Beijing for a number of years and has a reputation for in-depth investigative reports which drew great recognition and acclaim from the public and media industry.
"It is very disappointing to see China's government use selective punishment to apply pressure to the media", IFJ Asia-Pacific said.
"The IFJ urges Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to investigate the latest attacks on the media, and calls for China's Cultural Bureau to unconditionally lift the suspensions recently applied to Beijing-based publications as part of the 'fighting illegal publications' campaign."
Beijing was hit by a severe storm on July 21 which killed approximately 77 people and caused severe economic loss. The local government held a press conference but warned media not to ask questions relating to the death toll. Following the incident, the Central Propaganda Department demanded all media republish Chinese Government news agency articles on the incident and delete critical online comments.
What other IFEX members are saying
International Federation of Journalists
Committee to Protect Journalists