I was fired for writing Hong Kong columns, Song Zhibiao, Guangzhou-based reporter, says

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 July, 2014, 4:35am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 July, 2014, 7:13pm

A veteran Guangzhou-based journalist said he was sacked for writing a column for Hong Kong media following Beijing's introduction of a rule banning mainland reporters from contributing to overseas news outlets.

Song Zhibiao, 39, began working for China Fortune magazine in 2011 and also wrote a column on mainland news and affairs twice a week for Oriental Press Group, based in Hong Kong. Song said that last Friday he was called into the company's office and fired because of the columns.

"The overall media environment on the mainland has been changing so things happened. Being in the industry, there are professional risks involved and these risks are out of our hands," Song said.

"I am not interested in blaming anyone. After being in the business for nearly 20 years, I'm kind of fed up, so this incident made the decision of leaving for me. I don't feel victimised."

He said "quite a few" mainland journalists contributed to foreign media, or cooperated with them.

A source close to the chief editor of China Fortune, a monthly magazine under the Nanfang Media Group, said the editor would not comment on the incident. Oriental Press Group did not immediately respond to inquiries.

On July 8 the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television posted a directive banning local journalists from contributing to overseas news outlets or privately revealing any information they obtain during the course of their work. Qiao Mu, an associate professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University, said it was unfair to single out Song.

"He is an influential journalist specialising in commentary … the incident is designed to set an example, though a very bad one, and tries to intimidate others like him," Qiao said.

"It exposes a form of weakness of the authorities - they are afraid of the media but opinion is not something you can control," he said.