Activists stage protest outside newspaper office

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 June, 2012, 12:00am


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Activists staged a noisy protest outside the South China Morning Post's Causeway Bay office yesterday, accusing the paper of self-censorship by downplaying coverage of the death of dissident Li Wangyang.

A score of protesters from the Democratic Party and the League of Social Democrats accused the paper of being unfair to Li and Post readers by underplaying the news in its June 7 issue.

They also accused Post Editor-in-Chief Wang Xiangwei of trying to serve Beijing's interests.

One of the protesters, League of Social Democrats legislator 'Long Hair' Leung Kwok-hung, said: 'It is an insult to press freedom.

'If it is not self-censorship, then it was very bad news judgment by Mr Wang.'

He and fellow protesters burned a copy of the South China Morning Post before dispersing.

Wang told editorial staff at a meeting yesterday that he should have handled the case better but denied accusations of self-censorship.

'It was never my intention to downplay the story,' he said.

'On the day it broke, I chose to go with another story. In hindsight, I would have acted differently.

'We subsequently splashed the story on no fewer than three front pages and ran two leaders plus several other prominent stories, and I wrote two columns myself on the case.'

The Democratic Party urged Wang to promise the public that he would respect press freedom.

In a statement, the Civic Party also expressed concern and shock at the coverage.

At the centre of the row was the Post's handling of breaking news about the suspicious death of Li.

On June 7, the paper printed a 438-word news story on Li's death in its first edition. But the story was cut back to a 101-word news brief for its second edition.

Wang yesterday explained his stance during meetings with editorial staff. Some who attended said he admitted he should have handled the case better.

Referring to a tense e-mail exchange with a subeditor, Wang said he was in a rush when replying to the message. Thus the wording might not have been crafted in the most careful manner.