An investigative reporter was sacked by the Chengdu Business Daily in Chengdu, Sichuan , on Friday for inaccurate reporting. In a 7,000-word investigative report published on December 22, Long Can , 40, recounted the rescue of 18 Fudan University students and alumni who lost their way on Mount Huang on December 12. Three calls to police were ignored. Then one of the hikers, Shi Chengzu , mentioned that his uncle-in-law in Shanghai was 'very influential'. Shi sent him a text message, and a rescue team was sent swiftly. Long reported that a member of the rescue team said the mayor, the propaganda chief and the public security chief of Huangshan , Anhui, arrived that evening to lead the rescue, which involved 230 team members. The report said the effort and resources involved were much greater than might be expected. The 18 stranded hikers were rescued, and no one was injured. After Long's story was published, speculation grew online about who this mysterious uncle-in-law was. A 'human-flesh search' - a grass-roots online hunt - tried to identify him. The online discussion centred on the view that the rescue would not have happened so fast without political power being involved. This triggered another wave of anger against powerful officials following the 'My father is Li Gang ' incident in November. In that case, a university student in Hebei was killed by a drink-driver who challenged police officers who tried to arrest him, telling them that Li, the deputy chief of a district police bureau, was his father. Mainland media later reported that Shi's uncle-in-law was an ordinary Shanghai citizen and that the Shanghai Public Security Bureau had clarified the 'rumour', saying the rescue had nothing to do with the 'special element'. Long's newspaper announced on Friday that he had not double-checked his information about the uncle-in-law, which led to an error in reporting and a violation of the basic journalistic principle that reporters must interview both sides when reporting controversial issues. Three editors in charge of editing and reviewing the report were demoted or suspended from their posts. Three other editors were either fined 1,000 yuan (HK$1,180) to 3,000 yuan or were criticised or ordered to write self-criticism letters. Long - who helped to expose a photograph of a rare South China tiger in 2007 as a fake - conceded that he should be held accountable for not expecting that his report would cause such a reaction among internet users. 'The rescue was like a show or acting, which has no respect for life but only power,' he said. Zhou Ze , a lawyer who specialises in media issues, said Long's sacking was unacceptable. 'Reporters are entitled to supervise power. As long as he/she doesn't fabricate deliberately, one shouldn't be sacked for an error,' Zhou said. 'If the newspaper did this under pressure, it's even more unacceptable.'