Did Bloomberg News shelve its China story over access concerns?
An investigative report linking one of China’s wealthiest businessmen to the families of top Communist Party officials was allegedly shelved by Bloomberg News over fears it would anger the Chinese government.
That’s according to reports from The Financial Times and The New York Times, citing unnamed sources. They say Matthew Winkler, editor-in-chief of Bloomberg News, told reporters in a conference call in October that their story about billionaire real estate developer Wang Jianlin couldn’t move forward because China might retaliate by forcing the agency and its reporters out of the country.
The New York Times reported:
“In the call late last month, Mr. Winkler defended his decision, comparing it to the self-censorship by foreign news bureaus trying to preserve their ability to report inside Nazi-era Germany, according to Bloomberg employees familiar with the discussion.
‘He said, “If we run the story, well be kicked out of China,”‘ one of the employees said. Less than a week later, a second article, about the children of senior Chinese officials employed by foreign banks, was also declared dead, employees said.”
And The Financial Times notes Bloomberg’s recent run-ins with Beijing:
“Bloomberg’s decision not to print the story comes as China becomes even more aggressive in clamping down on the foreign media. Bloomberg’s website has been blocked since last year when it published an exposé on the wealth accumulated by relatives of Xi Jinping, China’s president. It is also having trouble getting journalist visas for reporters.
Censors have also blocked access to the website of the New York Times, which published a similar story last year about then Premier Wen Jiabao. The paper has had difficulty obtaining some journalist visas since then.”
For his part, Winkler says these reports are false — that the story hasn’t been spiked but is merely unfinished.
But the case raises more questions about how Western media companies — including those with vast financial interests, like Bloomberg — should do business in China.