Propaganda authorities should take the lead in reporting emergencies to avoid the spread of rumours, Nanjing's senior propaganda official wrote in yesterday's People's Daily. Ye Hao , director of the Jiangsu capital's publicity department and a member of its municipal party standing committee, said propaganda departments should react quickly and guide public opinion by visiting accidents and disaster scenes, organising press briefings and providing relevant information to journalists and the public. 'A media gag on emergency reportage is wrong theoretically and technologically because in the internet era, every citizen is a journalist who is capable of posting first-hand information on the internet,' Ye said. Yesterday's article came in the wake of widespread anger over coverage of a Nanjing plastics factory explosion on July 28. The blast triggered an online uproar about media control and the death toll. A Jiangsu Television reporter broadcasting live at the scene was abused by a provincial official. 'Who do you work for? Who told you to live-broadcast this?' the official said. The words were aired live on local television and soon became a popular online catchphrase. State media reported that at least 10 people were killed and 300 injured. But a local businessman said more than 100 had died, remarks later denied as a slip of the tongue. 'All these incidents have stirred up a mess in public opinion and interfered with the handling of the emergency,' Ye said. The truth and the extent of relief efforts were revealed after the central and local governments held three press conferences, Ye said, ensuring that people's right to be informed and the media's right to coverage were recognised without hampering disaster relief. Online rumours dissipated after the government released information, he said. But Song Shinan, a Sichuan-based media analyst, said: 'The authorities haven't fundamentally changed in handling disasters. They still like to feed information to journalists. As long as there is no freedom of the press and an ever-lengthening list of online sensitive words, there is no good information interaction between the government and media.'