Boot camp death story costs editor his post

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 August, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 August, 2009, 12:00am

A deputy editor of a Guangxi newspaper was dismissed by provincial propaganda authorities after the paper had published a series of stories about a teenage boy who was beaten to death at an internet addiction camp.

Liu Yuan, the deputy editor of the Nanning -based Nanguo Morning Post and the chief editor of its website, was stood down on Monday and would be sacked soon, Guangxi and Guangdong journalists familiar with the issue confirmed yesterday.

Journalists said a series of stories published early this month by Nanning newspapers had angered top provincial officials because it exposed weaknesses in governance.

One journalist, speaking anonymously because of the sensitivity of the issue, said a senior editor at Nanning's Modern Life Daily had also been suspended. The papers are part of the same group.

Several newspapers in Nanning revealed on August 4 that 15-year-old Deng Senshan had been beaten to death within 24 hours of his arrival at an internet addiction boot camp in Nanning.

Liu, 35, is an experienced journalist who formerly worked for The Southern Metropolis News, based in Guangzhou. He declined to comment yesterday.

But the other journalist source said his punishment had been 'a warning to the others'.

In Guangxi, the journalist said, provincial propaganda authorities had not banned reporting on the Web addiction boot camp story, but after several days of stories, they had issued very clear instructions on how to cover it. Newspapers duly complied, but apparently that was not enough.

The journalist said propaganda officials had probably received a severe reprimand from worried provincial leaders and then decided to make Liu the scapegoat. 'In fact, the reports did not cause any trouble for authorities. But all media must follow [propaganda officials' instructions], and there are no exceptions,' he said.

The boot-camp death was widely covered by big media organisations including Xinhua and the China Youth Daily even after reporting limits were imposed on Guangxi media on August 9.

On August 11, Xinhua published a commentary criticising Guangxi officials for the tragedy and urging them to learn from it.

Ahead of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic on October 1, all levels of officials are on high alert for any incident that could lead to unrest.

The mysterious death of a chef at a hotel in Shishou, Hubei, in June sparked a demonstration by tens of thousands, who blocked police from seizing the body from the lobby of the hotel, which was frequented by pleasure-seeking officials.