New York, December
16, 2008--Police should observe Chinese law and proceed transparently in the
investigation of two journalists arrested on bribery charges in northern Shanxi
province, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Shanxi public security officials told local journalists on
Monday that Guan Jian, a reporter for Beijing-based weekly Wangluo Bao (Network News) who had been missing for 15 days, is in
custody in neighboring Hubei province on suspicion of accepting bribes,
according to local news reports. According to Chinese law, authorities must inform
family or colleagues of an arrest within 24 hours.
In a separate case, four plainclothes officers from Taiyuan arrested another journalist, Li Min, from
state-run China Central Television--also on bribery charges--in her Beijing home on December
4, according to Beijing Qingnian Bao (Beijing
"Investigations into bribery charges should be transparent
and fully conducted according to Chinese law," said Bob Dietz, CPJ's Asia program coordinator. "We are concerned that bribery
allegations can be easily fabricated to wrongfully imprison journalists who dig
too deeply in an investigation."
Guan Jian had been reporting on irregular land deals
involving a local real estate company in Taiyuan,
Shanxi's capital, for his newspaper, a Science
Times Media Group publication affiliated with the Chinese Academy
of Sciences. Security surveillance footage in a hotel in the city shows five
men bundling Guan into a waiting vehicle on December 1, local and international
news reports said. He has not been in contact with family or colleagues since
then. Guan's son, Guan Yufei, reported his father missing to local police on
December 7, according to Beijing-based financial news magazine Caijing.
Public security officials in the city of Zhangjiakou
in neighboring Hebei province told local
journalists on Tuesday that Guan had been detained on suspicion of accepting
bribes in Taiyuan
on December 1, Caijing reported, but
no explanation for the 15-day lapse before making his status public was
Authorities have accused CCTV journalist Li Min of accepting
gifts from the brother of a businessman involved in a corruption story she was
working on, according to local news reports. Some local commentators questioned
the fact that the arrest was ordered by a Shanxi district prosecutor implicated in
Li's report. But the country's highest agency responsible for prosecutions and
investigations, the Supreme People's Procuratorate, approved the district
prosecutor's jurisdiction over the case despite the possible conflict of
interest, local news reports said.
Corrupt practices exist in Chinese journalism. Gifts or cash
payments, made to those carrying press credentials in return for publishing or
withholding a story, are common practice, leading to concerns among local media
analysts about editorial integrity.
Recent debates about media ethics have cited several cases
province. Local journalist Lan
Chenzhang was beaten to death at the site of a Shanxi mine accident in January 2007. Police
accused him of posing as a journalist to extort money from the mine owners. In
October, Hong Kong University's China Media Project Web site reported Chinese newspapers had
raised the issue again following another mining disaster in Shanxi's Linfen city. Some journalists--and people
posing as journalists--reportedly lined up to receive "gag fees" in exchange for
suppressing the story.
"There is no question that local authorities in China
are in the habit of using charges of corruption to target reporters who are
uncovering stories," David Bandurski, at the China Media
Project, told CPJ by e-mail. "But there is also little question that
corruption in China's
media is a worsening problem. A general lack of transparency and fairness--in
the press, in the courts, in law enforcement--makes it very difficult to know
what to make of any one particular case," Bandurski said.