China’s Muckrakers for Hire Deliver Exposes With Impact – Edward Cody

From the Washington Post, a look at Li Xinde and other investigative journalists who are using the Internet to publish expos√©s that wouldn’t make it into the print press:

What happened here in Qinglong was typical of a new kind of journalism that is emerging in response to the Chinese Communist Party’s suffocating censorship of newspapers, radio and television. With no more investment than a computer and a taste for taking risks, several dozen Web-based investigative journalists have set up sites and started advertising their willingness — for a price — to look into scandals that traditional reporters cannot touch.

Official censorship still protects authorities, including corrupt authorities, more than two decades after China launched itself on a path to reform. In a society that is swiftly modernizing, the security-conscious Communist Party continues to fear, and filter, the spread of information.

Although censorship is imposed at all levels of the party and government, much of it is self-inflicted by editors who are afraid of losing their jobs and are regularly coached by party officials on what to publish or broadcast.

The emerging Internet journalists for hire, however, have no jobs to protect; they are self-employed. And although the freedom is greater, the returns are meager. [Full text]