Ban on covering reporter's arrest
Mainland media warned off investigating CCTV journalist's detention
Propaganda authorities have ordered a blanket ban on all media investigations into and reports on the controversial arrest last week of a China Central Television legal reporter by prosecutors in the Shanxi city of Taiyuan , media sources say.
The sources said the Central Publicity Department issued two orders to media organisations on Wednesday afternoon, prohibiting mainland journalists from following up on a Beijing Youth Daily report on Monday that CCTV reporter Li Min had been arrested.
The newspaper reported that the arrest was carried out at her Beijing home by four officers from Taiyuan's Xinghualing district prosecutors' office on the instructions of their chief, He Shusheng , and with the authorisation of the Supreme People's Procuratorate.
The arrest for alleged abuse of power followed an interview Li conducted with district prosecutors about claims Mr He had intervened in a financial dispute between a Taiyuan businessman, named Mr Hao and a Guangdong businessman named Mr Wu, the report said.
Mr Wu was arrested three times, the last time on a charge of libelling Mr He, but was released each time because of insufficient evidence.
But the Beijing Youth Daily also said Li had received an expensive gift from Mr Wu's younger brother.
The report set off a major public debate, with many questioning how a prosecutor from a distant city could order an arrest in Beijing and whether the Supreme People's Procuratorate's authorisation was warranted. Others questioned the professional ethics of state media reporters.
The Supreme People's Procuratorate issued a statement on Tuesday, saying the Xinghualing district procuratorate suspected Li of taking bribes and using 'the convenience of being a reporter to gain interests for others'. Many mainland reporters sought to follow up on the statement by investigating the dispute between the two businessmen, and the involvement of Mr He and Li.
But the propaganda order effectively shut down those efforts. Editors at national newspapers were ordered not to continue reporting on the case and major portal websites were cautioned not to pick up any articles, especially ones with negative comments about prosecutors.
A Guangdong-based newspaper reporter said: 'The first order arrived, to tell us no sensational reporting of the case, and the second order came quickly afterwards to urge us not to do any investigation and reporting at all. All media should only carry the Xinhua version.'
A reporter from another weekly newspaper said she was stopped from taking a trip to Taiyuan.
Media sources said Taiyuan businessman Hao Jianxiu and Guangdong businessman Wu Xiaohui were influential multimillionaires involved in a dispute dating back to 2006 over ownership of land in Guangdong.
The sources said Mr Hao had the support of Taiyuan prosecutors who arrested Mr Wu three times for bribery, contract fraud and libel.
After his arrests, Mr Wu's family enlisted the Ministry of Public Security and many Guangdong People's Congress deputies to help press for his release.
One mainland reporter investigating the case said: 'The arrest of a CCTV reporter is sensational, but what is more important is the possible connection between businessmen and procurators who make so big a fuss to arrest a reporter far away in Beijing.
'Are there more scandals behind this? If yes, it will be another example of the corruption and abuse of power in China. Everybody is curious, but we are hushed up now.'