The founding editor of the now-defunct Eastern Express newspaper said yesterday he had not wanted to be seen as a martyr for press freedom after he was dismissed during a power struggle with the then chairman of the Oriental Press Group. Stephen Vines was testifying before the Court of First Instance about the circumstances leading up to his dismissal in 1994, an article about which was published in Next Magazine on September 16 of that year. The magazine, its editor-in-chief, Cheung Kim-hung, and printer Toppan Printing Co (HK) Ltd are facing a libel suit brought by the Oriental Press Group, which alleges the magazine defamed it by saying it interfered with the editorial independence of the Eastern Express. Oriental Press Group maintains Mr Vines was sacked in September 1994 because he was a 'very bad administrator'. Mr Vines said yesterday that after he was sacked, he was 'very keen' that his dismissal not be turned into a big political scandal. 'I knew that some people wanted to be a martyr for press freedom . . . I did not want it to be seen in that context,' he said. Cheung Huan SC, appearing for the Oriental Press Group, asked Mr Vines if during his time as editor he was aware management had considered him to be a bad administrator. Mr Vines disagreed he was thought of as such and said the main source of friction was a clash between two newspaper cultures. When asked by Mr Cheung whether he knew the Eastern Express had lost $100 million while under his editorship, he said he had not been officially informed but had heard rumours. Mr Vines told the court he was not given a budget to work within and described this as another method used by Oriental Press Group to erode his editorial autonomy. Earlier in the week, the court heard that the struggle for control between Mr Vines and Oriental Press Group's chairman at the time, Ma Ching-kwan, had begun soon after the newspaper started in February 1994. Tensions came to a head after a series of 'postcards' satirising paramount leader Deng Xiaoping's younger brother, Deng Ken, were published in the paper in May 1994, the court heard. This led to Mr Ma being refused entry to a dinner party with Mr Deng. Mr Ma demanded Mr Vines stop publishing the series, but he refused, counsel for Next Magazine said. The case before Mr Justice David Yam Yee-kwan continues on Monday.