The authorities are cracking down on bogus reporters to guarantee a fair, open and clean journalism environment for overseas reporters as the 2008 Olympics Games approaches, the country's top press official said.
Liu Binjie, minister of the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP), said fake reporters, especially those representing overseas-registered media, harm society and deserve severe punishment.
"Disguising reporters to threaten and intimidate others to collect money is cheating and very dangerous to society," Liu said in a group interview yesterday.
Liu's remarks came after police shut down The Social News, an allegedly illegal newspaper, and arrested two of its staff after the paper had reported an alleged miscarriage of justice.
Liu said the authorities are building a database of overseas reporters' profiles for the reference of interviewees.
A database of the 8,000 overseas reporters who will be allowed inside of Olympic venues has been completed, while a database of the 20,000 foreign reporters to be allowed to work in China during the Games is being built.
Statistics show that 150 fake reporters and 300 unregistered publications were detected during a nationwide campaign launched on August 15 to crack down on fake reporters.
The Social News had not been licensed for distribution on the Chinese mainland by the GAPP. It also provided false information about its registration in Hong Kong, a statement from the GAPP said yesterday.
Police have arrested Gao Yang, the newspaper's president and chief correspondent. He had not been certified by the GAPP, which registers journalists and issues press cards, the statement said.
He Guiying, the newspaper's financial controller, was also arrested, the statement said.
Gao is likely to be charged with fraud, publishing and distributing illegal publications and organizing an unauthorized public gathering, the police said. They said the case is still under investigation.
The statement said that from June until August, Gao and He, acting on behalf of foreign reporters, interfered with the court in Yingkou, Liaoning Province, and organized the local people to surround the courthouse.
Investigators found that Gao had printed his newspaper and press cards illegally in a small town in Langfang, Hebei Province.
In Shanxi, a coal mining region that has been at the center of several fraudulent reporting cases, some local people have used fake press cards to extort money.
People pretending to be reporters have visited small and medium-sized coal mines for "investigations" and then departed after being given bribes.
"Nineteen fake reporters holding more than 20 fake press cards were detected in just three hours at a toll station in Shanxi last month," Li Baozhong, an official with the GAPP's market supervision department, said.
The GAPP last week announced the extension of the fake reporter campaign until the end of March, five months longer than originally planned.
Xinhua contributed to the story