A newspaper is supposed to expose crimes and scandals. But Bloomberg apparently decided to look the other way and rejected a report that spoke harshly against corruption in China.
Silencing Chinese criticism
The incident occurred way back in 2012 when Michael Bloomberg, the company’s founder, was the Mayor of New York. A correspondent at Bloomberg’s China office, Mike Forsythe, wrote an exposé that showcased how the elites of Beijing had amassed massive amounts of wealth. When the article ended up being widely read, the Chinese ambassador called Bloomberg executives and warned against publishing similar material.
However, Forsythe decided to keep exposing the Chinese communist party regime. For his next article, he and his team focused on the family of President Xi Jinping, as well as the relationship between Chinese leaders and Wang Jianlin, the richest man in China at that time. The editors at Bloomberg were initially interested in exposing the nefarious corrupt system of China further. However, after the Chinese government put on some pressure, the executives realized that Bloomberg would be kicked out of the country if they allowed the piece to be published. So they dropped it.
In late 2013, Bloomberg News fired Forsythe, accusing the reporter of leaking the company’s plans to drop the story to other media outlets. He was made to sign a non-disclosure agreement, after which Forsythe had no choice but to remain silent.
The lawyers also targeted his wife, Leta Hong Fincher, and warned that the couple would be forced to pay thousands of dollars if they did not do as the company said. However, Fincher refused to sign any documents. In fact, she eventually hired top Hong Kong lawyers who had worked for whistleblower Edward Snowden.
In 2014, Bloomberg stopped harassing Forsythe and his wife. A year later, The New York Times published Forsythe’s article that was scrapped by Bloomberg. In February this year, Fincher revealed the entire matter at The Intercept’s website even though it risked inviting the wrath of Bloomberg’s lawyers. “They assumed that because I was the wife of their employee, I was the wife… I was just an appendage of their employee. I was not a human being,” she said to NPR.
The events surrounding Forsythe are an example of how vicious the Chinese government and those who act on its behalf can be. Despite being a world-renowned news publisher, even Bloomberg decided not to cross Beijing since they wanted to retain their business interests. This made the company act in a manner that is completely against the spirit of true journalism. The fact that they even harassed Forsythe’s wife who had nothing to do with the published story is clearly disturbing.
Press freedom in China
In a recent report by “Reporters Without Borders,” China was ranked at the 177th place (4th from the bottom) in the annual press freedom index list. This is the second straight year that China is at this place. Their handling of COVID-19 has only intensified the organization’s criticism of the Chinese government.
Cedric Alviani, the bureau chief for East Asia, pointed out that Beijing had hidden secret information about the epidemic in the first month of the outbreak itself. He also notes that when the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the CCP coronavirus as a global pandemic on March 11, China censored a large number of related keywords on its social media networks. At the bottom of the list in terms of press freedom is North Korea, with Turkmenistan and Eritrea slightly higher.