Reporter’s suit challenges China’s media controls

A Chinese reporter whose weekly publication was closed for three months after she wrote an article that criticized one of China‘s largest banks has sued the government, her lawyer said Tuesday.

In a rare challenge to Communist Party control over Chinese media, journalist Cui Fan filed a lawsuit last Wednesday charging that authorities did not have the right to shut down the China Business Post for publishing her article that alleged the Agricultural Bank of China had committed forgery.

By HENRY SANDERSON, Associated Press Writer

Cui’s article said a branch of the bank in Hunan province had forged official seals in order to dispose of 4.6 billion yuan ($672 million) in bad assets.

“I brought the lawsuit because what happened is unfair both to me and my colleagues,” Cui, 31, said in a telephone interview Monday from her home in Beijing.

The China Business Post was ordered closed on Sept. 8 for three months by the Bureau of Press and Publications in Inner Mongolia where it is registered. The newspaper, which is state-owned but managed by a private company, sells about 400,000 copies nationwide.

Cui was suing on grounds that under China’s press regulations, the government can legally stop distribution of a particular issue of a newspaper but that authority does not extend to suspending a publication for three months, according to Cui’s attorney, Zhou Ze.

“This goes to show that people in the media are increasingly intolerant of management of press and publications that does not follow the existing laws,” Zhou said in an e-mail. He said he was not comfortable talking about the case over the phone.

“No one before has questioned the administrative legality of the press and publications management,” Zhou said.

Reporters Without Borders, the Paris-based media watchdog, said it had not heard of a similar lawsuit by a Chinese newspaper before, spokesman Vincent Brossel said in an e-mail.

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