Chief sacked for ignoring newspaper's principles, says executive

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 February, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 17 February, 2006, 12:00am

Last week's sacking of a radical mainland newspaper editor was not linked to government pressure to rein in the media, the newspaper's president said yesterday in his first comment on the dismissal.

China Philanthropy Times president Liu Jing said Chen Jieren , the chief editor of the newspaper's Tuesday edition, had been sacked for failing to implement the newspaper's editorial principles. He said management was concerned that Mr Chen's actions would cause the newspaper, referred to as the Public Interest Times in previous media reports, to lose market share.

Mr Chen's removal was announced last Wednesday after the newspaper carried a story criticising incorrect English translations on the central government's new official website.

Last Tuesday's edition also carried a controversial profile of a professor who runs a website exposing academic cheats.

'These two stories should not have run in our newspaper,' Mr Liu said. 'English translation is not something we cover and our target readers are not academics.'

Mr Liu said the editorial mission of the five-year-old newspaper was to cover philanthropic causes.

'It is about China's charities, social relief, medical care, education and the environment,' he said. 'We also emphasise the social responsibility of corporate citizenship.

'But Mr Chen led the newspaper away from that. We are not aiming to be the best media [in general terms]. We want only to concentrate on public interest.'

Mr Chen wrote a 10,000-word article headlined, 'Ridiculous game, despicable intrigue' and published on the internet last weekend, accusing the newspaper's executives of self-censorship.

Mr Liu denied he had come under pressure from authorities wary of increasing press freedom. Mr Chen had alleged that the General Affairs Office of the State Council had told the Ministry of Civil Affairs, which is in charge of the newspaper, that the translation story 'negatively affected the image of the Chinese government'.

'But I do have pressure from the market,' Mr Liu said. 'His deviation from our set principles may have caused us to lose readers.'

The newspaper's main readership was government civil affairs officials, non-government organisations and businesses, he said.

'If any stories impact on the newspaper's financial operation, the newspaper will definitely not run them,' Mr Liu said.

'If we are the first to uncover any scandals in the civil affairs field, we may run it.'

Mr Chen's dismissal followed the sacking of outspoken Beijing News chief editor Yang Bin in December and the closure of the China Youth Daily's popular Bingdian Weekly supplement last month after it published a commentary on the Boxer Rebellion which the Publicity Department said 'reversed the crimes of imperialist countries invading China'.