Bloomberg suspends journalist over withheld China story leak

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Bloomberg News reporter Michael Forsythe has been suspended from the company over reports the news organization engaged in self-censorship with regard to an investigative story focused on the Chinese government.

Bloomberg has been accused of withholding an investigative story alleging “financial ties between one of China’s richest men and the family members of senior Community party members,” the Financial Times reported.

Suspended Bloomberg journalist Michael Forsythe. [Photo: Amazon.com]

Suspended Bloomberg journalist Michael Forsythe. [Photo: Amazon.com]

The company grew concerned that publishing the story would harm its business relationships in China. Bloomberg, along with operating a global media service, sells lucrative financial tools, namely the company’s prize computer terminal system.

News of Bloomberg’s apparent self-censorship was brought to light when someone familiar with the investigative story leaked details of the company’s decision not to run the piece. The story was first made public by Next Media Animation, a Taiwan-based animation service that creates short, viral news videos (NMA provides animation services to Thomson Reuters, a company that competes with Bloomberg in the financial information business).

The company had reason to suspect Forsythe was involved in the leak, and the company suspended the Hong Kong-based journalist last week.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg has denied it “spiked” the story. Bloomberg editor-in-chief Matthew Winkler told the Financial Times that the piece “as presented to me was not ready for publication.”

Emails obtained by the Financial Times seem to contradict Winkler’s statement. When asked about Forsythe’s suspension, the paper said he did not return an inquiry for comment.

Bloomberg is one of several foreign media outlets attempting to operate in mainland China, where a repressive government has made it difficult for global news organizations to objectively cover government officials and their dealings.

Over the past few weeks, the New York Times, Reuters, Bloomberg and Al Jazeera English have experienced problems obtaining visas for their journalists. When Al Jazeera English journalist Melissa Chan was expelled from the country without reason, the television channel shut down its Beijing bureau.

Last week, Chinese versions of the Wall Street Journal and Reuters websites were blocked from view within the country. In response, the online service GreatFire.org launched an unauthorized “mirror” version of the Reuters China website that can be accessed by internet users in China.