The top government censor for the print media is to tighten supervision after several Chinese-language newspapers were found to have published a series of untrue articles since January last year. Six mainland newspapers, including the Beijing Times, were censured by the General Administration of Press and Publication (Gapp) in a notice earlier this week for bogus news reports over 16 months. News reporting without verification sat very badly with the public and had damaged the credibility and trustworthiness of news organisations, the watchdog said. The eight-point notice ordered newspapers to improve their accountability mechanisms, particularly targeting rogue reporters to weed out unsubstantiated reports and paid journalism. Under the guidelines, regulators said they would develop a database of blacklisted journalists, who could face a lifetime ban from the industry if found guilty of writing bogus news. The revelation of such reports came as a huge embarrassment for the top censor, which has maintained a tight grip on state media outlets over what they may report. The bogus news has also made a mockery of previous crackdowns on fake journalism. Huang Yu, the head of Hong Kong Baptist University's journalism department, noted the irregularities this time could be attributed to a lack of professionalism and ethics among some of the journalists in an increasingly competitive and market-oriented media industry. Likening bogus news reporting to cheating in exams, Professor Huang said regulators could strengthen oversight and educate journalists on ethical reporting to counteract it. 'But the news business is an industry that relies highly on input from individuals, so it might be impossible to weed out such violations entirely,' Professor Huang said. Authorities could encourage supervision from independent watchdog individuals or groups. In a report dated last September 11, the Beijing Times claimed China Merchants Bank had lost more than HK$10 billion in its investment in Wing Lung Bank. The Gapp notice said the false report was the result of a misinterpretation by the reporter of Wing Lung Bank's stock prices, but the report sent bank stocks sliding that day, with China Merchants Bank losing 12.75 billion yuan (HK$14.5 billion). In publications dated January 18 and 19 this year, the Qingdao Zaobao in Shandong province and the Chengdu-based West China City Daily carried a report claiming an intense standoff between a Chinese warship and an Indian submarine in waters off Somalia on January 15. It turned out to be a fictional piece from a freelancer working for the West China City Daily that was sold to the Shandong newspaper. 'The report led to a bad impression with the public and cast a bad light on the reputation of the country and the army,' Gapp said.