HONG KONG—Two journalists from the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan are on trial for alleged bribe-taking, officials and local media reported.
Yunnan Law News features editor Zhang Chaoyun and reporter Zhang Youping from the Metropolis Times are expected to stand trial soon in a court in Qujing city, Lulang county, for allegedly "accepting bribes," after they tried to find out more about court proceedings.
An official who answered the phone at the Lulang county procuratorate, or state prosecutor, confirmed the case had already been presented to the Lulang People's Court.
"We have already submitted the case to the court," the official said.
"The case is in the criminal court. You will have to ask them about it."
Calls to the Lulang County People's Court went unanswered during office hours Wednesday.
The complaint against the two journalists was lodged initially by the Jinping County Land Bureau, which accused them of using "false reports."
The editor of a local whistleblower Web site, Jiang Huanwen, said the case against Zhang Youping had been brought after the provincial propaganda department noticed he was mentioned in a report she published online.
"The leader of the Yunnan provincial propaganda department told me that he'd seen from my report that there was a problem with Zhang Youping, but he said there were other issues which were much more serious than the one in my report," Jiang said.
"After that, Zhang Youping was arrested."
The two men have been mentioned in forum posts related to the media in Yunnan, but not in any news reports.
Metropolitan Times editor-in-chief Zhao Jianwu denied there was any case against Zhang.
"I have never heard of this," he said by telephone.
"No such thing happened. I don't know."
"This person worked here before, but he left the newspaper a long time ago. This has nothing to do with us," Zhao said.
An employee who answered the phone at the Yunnan Law Daily said "Zhang Chaoyun isn't here now," but declined to confirm whether he had been arrested.
Sources in the region said the men had worked together on an investigative report in May, titled "On Illegal Land Grabs and Environmental Pollution by the Coking Coal Processing Industry," which was possibly connected to charges being brought against them several months later.
The article was written, but never published.
Others cited articles critical of Lulang county officials, which the pair posted online.
Jiang Huanwen called for transparency in any cases involving the detention of journalists.
"There has been a news blackout [on this case] in Yunnan. Everyone knows that they've been arrested, but no one really has any clear information. I have been asking about this everywhere as well," Jiang said.
"The can of worms has been covered up again, and if no one admits what is happening, they will carry on with whatever it was," he said.
"Some journalists interview local enterprises and then expect to get paid to kill the story. If such a case comes to light, the officials will get in trouble from higher up, because the government has been implicated."
"They want to muzzle you and stop you from reporting things."
Original reporting in Mandarin by Ding Xiao. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.