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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 December 2005, 13:49 GMT
Top Chinese press editor sacked
Beijing News at a newspaper stand
The Beijing News is considered one of China's most adventurous papers
The authorities in China have dismissed the top editor of the Beijing News, one of the country's most popular and daring newspapers.

Editor-in-chief Yang Bin was removed along with two other senior editors.

No official reason was given, but a lawyer who often represents journalists said Communist officials had accused the paper of multiple errors.

The Beijing News has a reputation for forthright reporting and commentary, despite strict control over the press.

It exposed a bloody crackdown ordered by officials against protesting farmers in Dingzhou, in the northern province of Hebei, in June, in which six farmers were killed.

Joint venture

Officials announced the dismissals at a meeting on Wednesday afternoon. Several senior staff of the paper reportedly walked out in protest, and could go on strike.

"A lot of good reporters may leave," one journalist told Reuters news agency.

The editors will be replaced by staff from the conservative Guangming Daily, but sources at the Beijing News said the top job would remain vacant.

The News was launched as a joint venture by Guangming and the Southern Daily newspaper group - which owns two other newspapers considered to be politically adventurous - in 2003.

Guangming has a controlling share, and correspondents say the two groups have often been at loggerheads.

In 2004, one of the News' founders, Cheng Yizhong, was arrested on embezzlement charges dating from his time at another newspaper. He was released without charge five months later.

Paris-based organisation Reporters Without Borders has frequently criticised restrictions on the media in China, and says Chinese journalists are routinely forbidden from mentioning many sensitive subjects.

In its 2005 world press freedom index, China came 159th out of the 167 countries listed.

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