Editors punished over truck explosion
Three editors at two state newspapers have been sacked or demoted for publishing independent reports on a military truck explosion that killed 73 people in Xinjiang. They were accused of violating 'news discipline'.
Yang Xiaofeng, head of the news centre of the Lanzhou Daily in Gansu province was demoted to junior editor, while two editors from sister publication, the Lanzhou Evening News, were sacked from their editorial posts for 'publishing reports that hurt military-civilian relations'.
The penalties came after an investigation of the newspapers' reports about the blast in early September.
Copies of a directive issued by the Gansu provincial party committee were circulated to all state media in the province, warning them to learn from the incident and to toe the party line in releasing news.
The directive said the newspapers had 'violated news discipline' and revealed much restricted information on the explosion before Xinhua reported on the case.
The Lanzhou Daily was also criticised by the Lanzhou military region, which has jurisdiction over Xinjiang military region, for accusing the military in its reports of violating regulations by allowing explosives to be transported through crowded city streets.
Yang allegedly sent journalist teams to Urumqi, capital of the restive Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, after the newspaper received confirmation that a military truck laden with explosives blew up there on September 8. More than 300 bystanders were injured in addition to the 73 killed.
The Lanzhou Daily and Lanzhou Evening News teams sent back pictures and first-hand reports, which included the casualty figure and the revelation that a military vehicle was involved.
Their reports were picked up by other dailies, mainland on-line news services and overseas media before Xinhua released its official staid report.
Mainland newspapers are required to use Xinhua reports on human or natural disasters deemed sensitive by central publicity officials.
Stringent punitive measures are being threatened against mainland media to deter deviation from the party line.
If three warnings are accumulated within a year, the publications will be closed for a period of 'self-rectification' or even lose their operation licences, while senior editorial staff can expect to be fired.
Early this month, two military chiefs, area commander Li Lianghui and Political Commissar Zhou Yongshun of the PLA Xinjiang Military Area Command, were dismissed after being held responsible for the September blast. The military truck had violated regulations by carrying mixed explosives. The bumpy ride ignited the explosives and led to the explosion, investigation results showed. Investigators ruled out a terrorist act.
About 10 other military officers at the area command were punished, with several prosecuted.