Afrique Ameriques Europe Moyen-Orient Internet Nations unies
China 8 January 2004

Police put pressure on daily newspaper that broke story of new Sars case
Reporters Without Borders urges intervention of World Health Organisation

The editor and six staff of a daily newspaper that broke the story of a new Sars case in December were questioned by police over alleged corruption, in an obvious attempt to silence them, said Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières).

Cheng Yizhong, editor in chief of Nanfang Dushi Bao (Southern Metropolis Daily), and the six other staff members of the tabloid were questioned by Guangzhou police on 6 January.

"There is no doubt that this corruption case is a pretext to try to silence this newspaper, known for its compromising revelations for local and national authorities," said Reporters Without Borders. In targeting Cheng and the Nanfang Dushi Bao staff the authorities were sending a new and very clear message to all the media to discourage it from reporting freely on Sars. Reporters Without Borders called on the World Health Organisation to intervene with the Chinese authorities to allow free reporting of news on the epidemic. In 2003, censorship and then propaganda kept the public in ignorance of the reality of the epidemic in the country.

Among those arrested at the newspaper on 6 January were staff from the business services. They were questioned for several hours over alleged corruption. Cheng was released the following day and was able to return to his office. The others have reportedly not resumed work.

Reporter for the newspaper Zeng Wenqiong, broke the news in December that a Guangzhou television producer was ill with Sars virus. Since 7 January, the management of the paper have been saying she was on holiday. According to the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, the provincial authorities accused the newspaper of publishing the news without official permission.

Cheng, 38, is also editor in chief of Xin Jing Bao (Beijing News) a new daily launched in November 2003. The rising journalistic star set out with Xin Jing Bao to publish "forbidden news" and biting investigations on the realities of Chinese society.

In March 2003, the newspaper hit the headlines with its revelations about the death of a young graphic artist Sun Zhigang, who was beaten to death in a Guangzhou police station.

In this country
3 June - China
“Tank Man” photo displayed outside Chinese embassy in Paris on eve of Tiananmen Square massacre
2 June - China
All references to Tiananmen Square massacre closely censored for 20 years
12 May - China
Foreign reporters prevented from working in Sichuan a year after earthquake
24 April - China
Concern that detained Tibetan magazine editor is being tortured
25 March - China
Government blocks access to YouTube

in the annual report
China - Annual report 2008
China - Annual report 2007
China - Annual report 2006

4 May 2009 - Nepal
Mission report : A call to end violence and impunity
2 April 2009 - Pakistan
Fact-finding visit by Reporters Without Borders to Swat “valley of fear”
16 March 2009 - Afghanistan
Report of fact-finding mission : Press freedom in free-fall in run-up to presidential election

Asia archives
2009 archives
2008 archives
2007 archives
2006 archives
2005 archives
2004 archives
2003 archives
2002 archives
2001 archives
2000 archives

Asia press releases
3 June - North Korea
Pyongyang judges asked to be lenient with two American journalists
3 June - Afghanistan
US forces arrest a journalist in Khost
2 June - China
Blocking of Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Blogger deprives Chinese of Web 2.0
2 June - Sri Lanka
Press freedom activist badly beaten in Colombo, hospitalised
29 May - Sri Lanka
Journalists trying to cover fate of Tamils are threatened, obstructed