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Journalists confront China censors over editorial

BEIJING — In a rare move, some Chinese journalists are openly confronting a top censor after a southern newspaper known for its edgy reporting was forced to change a New Year editorial calling for political reform into a tribute praising the Communist Party.

Sixty journalists from the Southern Weekly in Guangdong Province issued a complaint Thursday over the last-minute changes that they said were made without the consent of the editorial department.

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Another group of 35 former reporters from the newspaper went a step further Friday, calling for the resignation of the provincial party propaganda chief Tuo Zhen while arguing that strong and credible news media are crucial for the country and even necessary for the ruling party.

‘‘If the media should lose credibility and influence, then how can the ruling party make its voice heard or convince its people?’’ their letter said.

The party-run Global Times newspaper hit back with a defense of the government line, publishing an editorial saying the media cannot exist ‘‘romantically’’ outside the country’s political reality. The spat has become one of the hottest topics on China’s popular ­microblog site Sina Weibo.

Also apparently coming under pressure from Chinese censors was the Beijing-based pro-reform journal Yanhuang Chunqiu, whose website was no longer accessible on the mainland Friday.

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