Reporter to seek retrial after lawsuit dismissed

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 April, 2007, 12:00am

A Beijing-based journalist has vowed to seek a retrial after a district court dismissed his defamation suit against authorities in Heilongjiang province over reports about a coal mine ownership dispute.

The Tongzhou District People's Court ruled yesterday that the Arbitration Committee, under the Office of Law and Order in Qitaihe, should be censured for an open letter posted in October on the office's web portal accusing Sheng Xueyou of being biased and lacking journalistic ethics in his coverage of the Qitaihe coal mine ownership dispute in the city.

But even though the court also said the wording of the letter was inappropriate, it insisted 'it did not constitute an offence tarnishing the plaintiff's reputation'.

Sheng, 42, was a freelancer for the Beijing-based West Times in August when he wrote a series of stories about the dispute and the arbitration committee's ruling, accusing the committee of repeatedly favouring one applicant.

In response to yesterday's verdict, Sheng said he believed the court's decision was a result of influence peddling on the part of the government office in Qitaihe.

Liu Mingying , director of Qitaihe's Office of Law and Order, would not comment.

A West Times editor, Zhang Zhengdun , said the Qitaihe office had contacted the paper through a third party, but he refused to say if there was a behind-the-scenes deal to avoid a court battle.

Sheng said: 'I believe that as a journalist I have to stand up to the bullies. Today it's me [being bullied] and, if nobody dares to, tomorrow it will be somebody else.'