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Reporter suspended after cigarette report

Updated: 2012-07-02 19:09
By Ma Lie ( chinadaily.com.cn)

A journalist has been suspended after drawing attention to county officials who were pictured with expensive cigarettes while visiting people in poverty.

The photo, published June 25 on the website of the county government of Dali, in Weinan city, Shaanxi province, showed county leaders meeting with poor farmers.

On the table was a carton of cigarettes worth about 100 yuan ($15.80) a pack

Shi Junrong, a journalist working with Xi'an Evening News, noted the public reaction the photo had drawn and asked county leaders about it.

He received a phone call from one of the county leaders who explained that the cigarettes were put on the table by the village leader, who said they were given to him by a friend.

The official said that the county leaders criticized the village leader after they found the cigarettes were so expensive.

The story ran on June 27, creating a stir and prompting many people to say that the county leaders were wrong to take such expensive cigarettes when they visited poor farmers.

Shi was ordered to stop his work on the night of June 29, and later that day the Xi'an Evening News announced on its micro blog that Shi was suspended from his duties at the newspaper because he wrote the story without a face-to-face interview.

"In accordance with the paper's regulations, the paper decided to stop Shi's work and let him learn a lesson from it in order to improve his work style," the micro blog post said.

However, Shi was not suspended from his duty as the director of the newspaper's Weinan reporter office, the micro blog said.

The newspaper refused to answer any more questions about Shi.

But his suspension drew even more attention than the original story.

Nong Tao, director of the News Business Department of the General Administration of Press and Publication of the People's Republic of China, said on his micro blog on June 30 that the report about the expensive cigarettes was not inappropriate and the local authority abused its power.

Pan Shiyi, a well-known businessman and chairman of Soho China, said on his micro blog that one function of the media is supervision.

The paper replied that it will continue its function of public opinion surveillance.

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