Reporter nearly sacked for exclusive on railway reforms vindicated

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 11 March, 2013, 6:06am

A vindicated Wen Shuping awoke yesterday to many phone calls from her friends in the media, telling her that the Railways Ministry was at last going to be dismantled, with its administrative and commercial functions divided up.

Wen was not surprised, as she was among the first mainland journalists to break this news almost nine months ago. But her report in June almost got her fired from the Economic Observer, a Beijing-based weekly newspaper, because the ministry insisted Wen wrote a "false report".

Under tremendous pressure from the ministry at the time, the newspaper ran an apology, claiming that Wen had not conducted interviews and that she had compiled the report based on rumours and expert opinions found online.

It also said that it had fired Wen and penalised several editors for running the report.

"I knew this day would come, because the plan to split up the ministry was already almost certain at the time, as my source was personally involved in the reform plan," Wen told the South China Morning Post yesterday.

The reaction to her report showed that the restructuring plan had encountered a lot of resistance within the ministry, said Wen, who had been covering the nation's scandal-plagued railway system since 2010.

Fortunately for Wen, the newspaper did not actually fire her. She was given different assignments and wrote under a pseudonym.

This was not the first time the ministry had wrongfully labelled one of Wen's stories a "false report". She was forced to apologise for a 2011 story on reduced investment in railway construction - a story that was proved true by the end of that year.

"The ministry won the battle with the Economic Observer, but it couldn't escape its fate" of being broken apart, she said. "That's what the public wanted."