Southern Weekly Magazine suspected of self-censorship

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) calls on the Southern Weekly Magazine to immediately explain the withdrawal of two investigative reports and the sudden removal of the editor-in-chief.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) calls on the Southern Weekly Magazine in China to immediately explain the withdrawal of two investigative reports and the sudden removal of the editor-in-chief.

According to reports by Ming Pao, Southern Weekly Magazine, which is under the supervision of the Communist Party propaganda branch in Guangdong, suddenly withdrew two investigative financial reports about Heinan Airlines (HNA) Group on February 8, without reason.

The report said that one of the journalists, who had written the article, Huang He, posted the original articles online with an attached note. The note said that he had been given the assignment to investigate the finance situation of HNA Group in mid-January. However just one day before scheduled publication, he was informed that his two in-depth reports would not be published. The articles explained the business model of HNA Group, particularly focusing on how the Group, which is currently operating with a large debt, was able to acquire several companies during an ‘acquisition spree’ over the past 12 months.

After the articles were ‘killed’, Duan Gongwei, the editor-in-chief was reportedly removed and replaced by Wang Wei, who was the editor-in-chief of Southern Magazine, the sister publication.

It has been reported that HNA Group has strong linkages with Wang Qishan, a former member of the Politburo Standing Committee, who has been accused of corruption, by Chinese fugitive, Guo Wengui.

On February 7, the day before the reports were withdrawn, HNA Group published a statement on its website, which said that all staff are loyal to the Chinese Communist Party. Staff that were also members of the Communist Party has retaken the oath to join the Party.

The articles were not found when searched on Mainland search engines, nor mentioned in any media reports. All social media messages about Southern Weekly Magazine or the editor-in-chief were deleted.

The IFJ Asia Pacific Office said: “This is not the first incident of alleged self-censorship at Southern Weekly Magazine. In 2013, the then editor-in-chief, Huang Can, tightly followed the ‘party line’ and adopted the ‘Chinese Dream’ theme in all reporting for the New Year edition. This sparked an internal strike. Yet, we again find reason to allege that the magazine is practicing self-censorship."

The IFJ calls on the management at Southern Weekly Magazine to explain why the two reports were withdrawn, and why Duan Gongwei was removed from his post.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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