China Continues To Be Unfriendly To Journalists

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Fang Shimin, a Chinese journalist, was recently attacked by an unidentified assailant wielding a metal hammer. Fang escaped with minor injuries, but believes the attack is related to his work as a journalist.

Known in China as the "science cop," Fang concentrates on exposing flawed or weak scientific claims or research, fraudlent resumes and plagarism. He has received several threats.

"In an ideal world, some more formal and organized watchdogs ... professional organizations or a governmental agency would be in place," Fang said. "But China does not have these, so individual watchdogs become essential."

This attack followed a similar assault of Fang Xuanchang, an editor at Caijing magazine who has exposed multiple doctors promoting dubious miracle cures. He was beaten by two men while walking by his house in June. These two attacks are painful reminders that censorship is not the only risk facing journalists in China.

Fang Shimin, who writes under the pen name Fang Zhouzi, is a rare example of a journalist in China. "Fang Zhouzi touches upon power and business and the officials who support those businesses, because with any business, behind it there are officials in support," says Li Datong, former editor of Freezing Point. "So it's a matter of facing up to power. Chinese media, generally speaking, don't do a good job of this."

China is the leader in terms of jailing journalists; 24 were put in prison last year according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. It also ranks near the bottom of the annual index of press freedom, complied by Reporters Without Borders.

Beijing police are investigating both attacks, but no arrests have been made so far. The attacks continue to contribute to the culture of fear that journalists and other whistle-blowers encounter.

"I will continue what I am doing," Fang Shimin said. "And of course I will take some security measures."
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