China considers fining media outlets for disaster reporting

Advancing their reputation as fun-loving goofballs, Chinese officials are considering a new law that would allow local governments to fine media outlets up to $12,500 for reporting on environmental disasters and other emergencies without permission or in a way that “causes serious consequences.” Officials have been embarrassed by a string of disaster reports in the media; most have concerned coal-mining accidents, of which there were 3,341 last year, and some have inspired legal action. In the past few years, under President Hu Jintao’s goal to “build a harmonious society,” officials have clamped down on the press, refusing to talk about a factory explosion that dumped 100 tons of toxic chemicals into the Songhua River, keeping media from the site of a gas explosion in a coal mine, banning respected journalists from their posts, and jailing two reporters. Despite the most recent threat, local journalists were not cowed. “Local government and those engaged in cover-ups should fine the media?” read one editorial. “Is this or is this not absurd?” Is.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.