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China 17 January 2006

Despondency and resignations from the liberal press

Reporters Without Borders condemned the Chinese authorities’ hounding of liberal dailies Nanfang Dushi Bao (Southern Metropolis News) and Xin Jing Bao (Beijing News) which has spread despondency in the editorial offices expected to lead to journalists resigning after the Chinese New Year.

"Many of us have lost hope in this newspaper after discovering the invisible monster that is hiding behind it," one Xin Jing Bao journalist told the worldwide press freedom organisation. "A lot of us are ready to leave Xin Jing Bao to join other media, particularly news websites."

"The extraordinary pressure exerted on the liberal dailies by press groups in thrall to the communist party is utterly scandalous", the organisation said. "It is pushing a generation of courageous journalists to leave these newspapers".

Discouraged by the determination of the government newspaper Guangming Ribao to put them under close surveillance, several journalists, including section heads, have reportedly decided to leave the Beijing daily, after the Chinese New Year.

The same thing has been happening at the daily Nanfang Dushi Bao, published in Guangzhou (South), after the sacking, on 30 December 2005, of its deputy editor, Xia Yitao. The Publicity Department (formerly Propaganda Department) was displeased by the headline of an article about sanctions imposed on a deputy governor after a coal mining accident.

"Even the imprisonment of the former editor Cheng Yizhong didn’t manage to discourage us. But this is now changing, since the Nanfang press group to which the paper belongs, has been sending us very conservative people to sack the journalists they do not appreciate," one journalist told Reporters Without Borders. "This newspaper is getting to be more and more like a government office. That is the reason for the imminent departure of the cultural editor and some of his colleagues who have no more faith in their newspaper"

Apart from an ideological turning of the screw, the desire of official press groups to bring these popular dailies under control also has a financial motive.

"The former communist press is proving less and less successful. As a result, it has decided to tap into the revenue of the popular new newspapers aimed at an urban public. Nanfang Dushi Bao is a notable example of this. It earns a lot of money. Unfortunately, these resignations will allow Guangming Ribao and Nanfang Ribao to place their own journalists within the editorial teams, which will mean a victory for the Chinese communist party," concluded one Beijing journalist.

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