Some villages in Shanxi Province are famous for coalmines. But in recent years, they have also been known as a popular destination for "fake journalists" who demand "shut up" payment from mine owners in exchange for not publicizing fatal accidents, according to Southern Weekend.
These "reporters" reportedly do not belong to any group or carry media credentials but often pretend to be journalists in order to make easy money from nervous mine owners.
In reality, some mine owners have been accused of paying off reporters not to write about deadly accidents.
The fake reporters often flock to coalmines and on the roads where coal trucks travel.
The self-proclaimed reporters once got 1,000 yuan ($146) in transportation fees," but recently, the number has dropped to 300 to 500 yuan ($43 to 73), Wang Guiyuan, a reporter who claimed to be a reporter for Shanxi Daily's energy magazine, was quoted as saying.
The number of fake reporters is not known but some real local reporters said that whenever coal incidents happen, fake reporters immediately show up from nowhere to demand hush money.
A reporter surnamed Li with Shanxi Shichang Daobao told the Global Times Monday that since genuine reporters seldom cover coal mine incidents, there is room for cheating. He said they are not encouraged to cover coalmine accidents.
"I think when a real reporter is absent, a fake reporter is ready at the scene of a coal mine accident," he said.
A Xinzhou government spokesperson told the Global Times Monday that local officials are very concerned about the fake reporters.
"We have noticed the report and we decided to begin a 100-day rectification campaign beginning from today," Zhang Duonian, an official at the local government, said.
She said the campaign would try to root out suspected fake reporters from "reporter villagers" by investigating publications, and urge the public to turn in fake reporters. They will also shut down organizations that produce fake documents for reporters.
In early 2007, Shanxi launched a rectification campaign against fake reporters, in which about 14,300 illegal publications were banned, 1,362 fake press cards were seized, 28 fake reporters were detained and 45 fake press organizations were closed.
The campaign was launched after Lan Chengzhang, who said he worked for the Shanxi Bureau of China Trade News, was beaten to death by several people hired by a coalmine owner. Lan was believed to have gone to the coal mine for some hush money after he learned that it got no license. The owner received a life sentence and was ordered to pay 380,000 yuan ($55,656) to the victim's family.