China reporter sentenced in cover-up of mine blast
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Last Updated: Thursday, January 07, 2010, 00:42
Beijing: A Chinese journalist has been sentenced to 16 years in prison for taking bribes to help cover up a coal mine disaster just before the Beijing Olympics, his lawyer said on Wednesday.

More than 50 local officials and journalists also face charges. Mine officials in the northern province of Hebei are accused of moving dead bodies, destroying evidence and paying journalists USD 380,000) not to report on the July 2008 explosion in which 34 miners and a rescue worker were killed, state-run media have reported. The story was kept quiet for three months.

It's fairly common for officials to pay such bribes to keep higher ranking leaders from finding out about disasters and to avoid being fired or handed demerits. The payoffs sometimes take the form of blackmail, with reporters threatening to reveal accidents unless they are paid off. The payments often are disguised as advertising buys or subscription fees.

Officials may have had even more reason to keep the Hebei accident silent because it struck just three weeks before the Beijing Olympic Games in the midst of a national safety campaign, when the central government was bent on painting only the most positive picture of China to the world.

Li Junqi is thought to be the first of 10 journalists sentenced in the scandal.


First Published: Thursday, January 07, 2010, 00:42

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