Hush Money Journalism

Caixin, edited by Hu Shuli, reports on and the recent mining disaster cover-up in Weixian, Hebei:

Later last year, a dozen journalists were discovered to have taken hush money totaling 2.6 million yuan, according to a Provincial government report released January 9. Local authorities in Weixian, Hebei Province bribed journalists, including four from national media, to silence a mining accident that occurred July 14, 2008. Crowds of journalists lined up for hush money to be handed out after a local coal mine accident in Shanxi Province Nov. 3, 2008.

As these cases show, the lure of money continues to dull the consciences of a few journalists. But as for whether only the journalists should be responsible, Professor Zhan Jiang from the Beijing Foreign Studies University said that the brunt of criticism ought to be directed at local government officials.

Officials in areas with intense mining, such as Hebei and Shanxi, are frequently found attempting to conceal accidents from the public. Professor Zhan said local authorities in mining areas have come to rely on concealing work safety accidents through cutting information off from the public and using public funds for bribes. Zhan says this systemic corruption creates “professional blackmail journalists.”

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