Newsman detained after scoops urges colleagues to speak the truth regardless Former Southern Metropolis News editor-in-chief Cheng Yizhong has been barred from accepting a UN press award in Dakar and has appealed to mainland journalists to 'speak the truth' despite fear of punishment. Mr Cheng said in a message posted on the internet that the UN's recognition was not just comforting in difficult circumstances but was 'very significant to the reform of China's political and human rights situation'. 'As for not being able to go to Dakar, I feel very regretful and apologetic,' he said. A source said he was told not to attend the 2005 Unesco/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize award ceremony scheduled for tomorrow in Senegal's capital to mark World Press Freedom Day. Mr Cheng said he could not comment on the ban. 'I hope you understand,' he said. He and his wife believe they are under surveillance. During the five months he was in police custody last year, his wife says she was deprived of access to information and their home was raided twice. The former editor thanked and praised his colleagues for the difficulties they endured in trying to publish the facts, but he also exhorted them to use knowledge as a weapon to fight for their rights. 'The important tasks now are address the public's right to knowledge and raise political transparency. This is the responsibility of the media and the power of those who have no rights. As a journalist you can decline to say anything but you have no right to lie. To speak the truth is not the ideal, but the bottom line,' he said. But mainland journalists were succumbing to their fears of state controls over what they could publish, Mr Cheng said. 'There is fear and lies everywhere and we are getting further and further from the truth ... if we allow ourselves to get used to it, we will be harming ourselves,' he said. 'Let us from now on be ashamed of the current situation.' He also paid tribute to two colleagues, Yu Huafeng and Li Minying, who were convicted and jailed for embezzlement. He said the public suffered just as much as media workers because there was an 'evil system that imprisons all of us'. Mr Cheng and his colleagues got into trouble after the newspaper angered provincial and municipal officials by running an expose on a student who was beaten to death while in police custody and a scoop about Sars. He was not brought to court but was expelled from the Communist Party after his release from detention in August. The Southern Daily Newspaper Group, which owns Southern Metropolis News, reassigned him to a managerial position at sister newspaper Nanfang Tiyu in January.