Oct 28, 2013

    China paper recants defence of arrested reporter

    A CHINESE newspaper issued a front-page apology yesterday recanting its bold defence of an employee who was arrested after reporting on a company's "financial problems", adding another twist to the high-profile media controversy.

    The statement was the latest public disavowal of journalist Chen Yongzhou - despite initial public sympathy after his detention and open support by his employer, the New Express, in a rare act of defiance against powerful state censors.

    "This newspaper was not strict enough about thoroughly fact-checking the draft of (Chen's) report," it said in a small announcement on a bottom corner of its front page.

    "After the incident occurred, the newspaper took inappropriate measures, seriously harming the public trust of the media."

    The statement came a day after Chen appeared on state television in a prison uniform to "confess" after being arrested more than a week earlier on "suspicion of damaging business reputation".

    He had written 15 articles accusing the engineering giant Zoomlion of "financial problems", including inflating its profits.

    Zoomlion is 20 per cent owned by the state and is listed on the Hong Kong and Shenzhen stock exchanges with a total market capitalisation of more than US$8 billion (S$10 billion).

    The official Xinhua news agency said on Saturday that Chen had admitted to "having released unverified and untrue stories about a company for money and fame", and that he had acted "at the request of others".

    Xinhua quoted him as saying: "I did this mainly because I hankered after money and fame. I've been used. I've realised my wrongdoing."

    Users of China's popular Twitter-like service, Sina Weibo, expressed dismay over the latest developments. A lawyer, under the name Liu Jianping, posted: "The media is going to face a major cleansing."