Reporters face charges for mine coverup

Ten journalists and nearly 50 officials are facing prosecution after a State Council probe found they allegedly took bribes to cover up a mine disaster in Hebei province.

Thirty-four miners and a rescuer died after the explosion at the Lijiawa mine in Yuxian county on July 14 last year, three weeks before the start of the Beijing Olympics.

According to the allegations, mine bosses relocated bodies, destroyed evidence and paid the journalists 2.6 million yuan ($380,000) to cover up the disaster, Xinhua News Agency said.

Relatives of the dead were kept quiet thanks to large payments and threats, it said.

The coverup kept the tragedy from the public eye for 85 days.

The identities of the 10 journalists has not been made public but reports claim Guan Jian, a Beijing journalist from China Internet Weekly, is among them.
Guan was detained in Shanxi province in December and went on trial in April for taking bribes from officials in Yuxian county in the aftermath of the mining accident.

The prosecution said the Yuxian county government paid 250,000 yuan for two pages of advertisements, as well as a "subscription fee" of 30,000 yuan to his newspaper.

After receiving the money, Guan destroyed a tape of the tragedy, the prosecution said.

The central government has also pressed charges against 48 officials, including the mine owners, the county chief, work safety officials and police officers in connection to the coverup.

The incident is the latest in a series of journalistic scandals in China.

In August, a journalist from China Central Television was sentenced to three years in prison with a four-year reprieve for accepting a bribe in Shanxi province.

In May, Beijing reporter Fu Hua was charged after he allegedly accepted money from whistleblowers with a tip-off on airport construction quality.

And last year, two journalists and 26 people posing as journalists were involved in a scandal in Shanxi after a worker was killed in a mine accident and bribes were allegedly paid.

Mistakes in reporting and fake news are bound to happen in the reporting business, according to Yu Guoming, vice-dean of the School of Journalism and Communication at the Renmin University of China.

These problems can never be eliminated, only "maintained within a reasonable boundary", to better enable the media to serve the fundamental benefits of society, Yu said.

A revised code of professional ethics for journalists was just released by the All-China Journalists Association on Friday.

China Daily