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Last Updated: Friday, 30 December 2005, 10:16 GMT
Walkout protest hits China paper
Beijing News at a newspaper stand - 30/12/05
The Beijing News was one of China's most adventurous papers
About 100 journalists from one of China's most progressive newspapers, the Beijing News, have walked out to protest against their editor's sacking.

The highly unusual move follows the ousting of editor-in-chief Yang Bin and two senior editors, as Communist Party officials moved to rein in the paper.

The paper appeared on Friday, but many stories were taken from the Xinhua news agency rather than its own journalists.

Analysts say the row highlights a growing struggle over controlling news.

Papers like the Beijing News have been publishing stories to attract readers and advertising revenues, leading to disputes with Communist Party censors, who have traditionally maintained an iron grip over all media.

After a recent easing of government control, several high-profile incidents this year suggest the Party is reversing that trend.

There was no mention of the walkout in China's newspapers, but word of it spread rapidly via internet blogs and bulletin boards, which Communist officials are less able to control.

Beijing News journalists told Western news agencies via phone that most staff were unhappy about Yang Bin's removal, which was described officially as a reassignment.

The paper's Friday edition contained 32 pages, compared to more than 80 on other days, according to the AP agency.

Joint venture

The Beijing News has a reputation for forthright reporting and commentary.

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

Following the reports, a local Communist Party official and 26 others were put on trial for organising the violence.

Yang Bin and the two other editors were due to be replaced by staff from the conservative Guangming Daily.

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

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

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

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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