How Long Can Bloomberg Censor Its Own China Exposé?

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Nov. 18 2013 11:22 AM

Bloomberg Suspends China Reporter Amid Censorship Scandal

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Is it all so Michael Bloomberg can line his pockets?

Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Bloomberg’s China troubles took another ugly twist over the weekend with the news, first reported by the New York Post, that award-winning journalist Michael Forsythe has been suspended, a week after the New York Times reported that the agency had spiked an investigation he had worked on looking into the financial interests of China’s senior leadership.

According to unnamed Bloomberg employees, that story had been killed over fears that the company, whose news website is already blocked in China, would be expelled entirely. Amazingly, this whole story may have been first broken in a video by Taiwan’s Next Media Animation studio, which in its own inimitable way implied that the whole affair may be tied to soon-to-be-ex-Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s business interests.

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That may be a stretch, but there certainly does seem to be an inherent conflict between the goals of Bloomberg’s top-notch investigative team, and the company’s interest in maintaining its lucrative terminal business in China. Last week, the New York Times’  Ed Wong, who seems to be getting pretty unfettered reports from inside the company, reported on the existence of “Code 204,” a line of coding that Bloomberg editors attach to certain articles on political and social issues in China so that they don’t appear on financial terminals on the mainland.

 (In a somewhat more petty gesture, it looks like China may also have blocked the website of the Times’ fashion magazine T. The main Times site was already blocked in China.)

With this story blowing up in the way it has, it seems like only a matter of time before the content of the investigative piece Forsythe was working on gets out anyway, either through Bloomberg growing a spine and just running it, or other outlets following up on the reporting. Only now, as a certified “story Beijing doesn’t want you to read,” it’s likely to get a lot more attention than it would have otherwise. 

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

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