Mining centre unmasks 30 bogus reporters out for money

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 September, 2007, 12:00am

Shanxi authorities have unmasked more than 30 fake or unlicensed reporters in the past month as they battle an invasion of bogus journalists trying to strike gold in the coal-rich province.

Quoting publishing and cultural affairs officials from Yuncheng prefecture, China Youth Daily said yesterday that most of the 'reporters' were caught out trying to get fees waived at toll gates by using fake press passes.

At least 100 bogus reporters have been caught in the northern province in the past two years and more than 40 are facing prosecution.

Zhan Jiang, from the China Youth University for Political Sciences, said the phenomenon had been spawned in the past decade by the province's mining boom.

Operators of the region's mines, most of them illegal, were vulnerable to extortion by individuals using fake press passes threatening to reveal details of their operations.

In January, Lan Chengzhang, from the Shanxi branch of China Trade News, was beaten to death by thugs hired by the owner of an illegal mine in Linfen county for allegedly trying to extort money.

Lan's brutal killing was ordered by the owner when he failed to produce accreditation. Many mainland reporters are not accredited.

Professor Zhan said many mainland newspapers were a legacy of the planned economy and had difficulty staying afloat in a highly competitive market, let alone finding funds for reporters or regional bureaus.

'The only motive to hire correspondents or to set up local bureaus is to sell advertising or some dishonest marketing practices,' he said.

Feng Jie, who was among the 30 'reporters' unmasked in the latest clampdown, has been the deputy chief of an unidentified monthly magazine's regional bureau for five years. The authorities deem it an unauthorised outlet.

Feng, 48, told the China Youth Daily he had to hand in 1,500 yuan to his head office each month as well as meet operational costs and salaries for himself and his staff. He was found in possession of a list of mine owners when detained.

Professor Zhan said the clampdown on fake reporters in Shanxi and across the mainland had gone some way towards curbing irregularities such as extortion.

'But the best way to tackle the problem is to separate the editorial side from marketing, freeing reporters from the obligation of making money,' he said.