An imprisoned Chinese journalist whose newspaper has made front-page appeals for his release has confessed to wrongdoing on state TV.
“I’m willing to admit my guilt and to show repentance,” said reporter Chen Yongzhou, arrested over claims he defamed a partly state-owned firm.
State media said he had admitted writing false stories for money.
Analysts say there have been a number of televised confessions recently in high-profile or politicised cases.
But campaigners have frequently criticised the practice, saying the confessions are often made under duress and violate rights to due process.
‘Hankered after money’
Mr Chen wrote several articles for the Guangdong-based New Express newspaper alleging financial irregularities at a construction-equipment company called Zoomlion.
“In this case I’ve caused damages to Zoomlion and also the whole news media industry and its ability to earn the public’s trust,” he told state broadcaster CCTV.
“I did this mainly because I hankered after money and fame. I’ve been used. I’ve realised my wrongdoing.”
State media said he had confessed to taking bribes, but did not report who might have paid the bribes.
His case attracted huge attention after the New Express twice used its front page to call for his release.
The newspaper has not yet commented on the confession.
Media monitoring group China Digital Times reported that the Communist Party’s propaganda department had barred newspapers from reporting the story.
An instruction from the department also warned papers to monitor reporters’ individual social-media accounts.
But many newspapers have continued to cover the story.
The Southern Metropolis Daily published an editorial accusing officials in Zoomlion’s hometown of Changsha of abuse of power over the case.
According to the Hong Kong-based China Media Project, the paper had to pull an earlier editorial under pressure from censors.
China’s newspaper industry is tightly controlled by a system of local censors carrying out party directives.
But there have been several high-profile rows over censorship.
Earlier this year staff at the Guangzhou-based Southern Weekly paper went on strike after a new-year editorial calling for reform was censored.
Beijing — A Chinese journalist arrested over a series of articles criticising a partly state-owned firm appeared on public television Saturday to apologise, with state media saying he admitted the articles were “unverified and false”.
Chen Yongzhou’s newspaper, the New Express, had previously said it stood by the reports, but was not immediately available to comment on Chen’s case, which made headlines around the world after the tabloid ran a rare front-page appeal for his release.
Appearing on Chinese state broadcaster CCTV on Saturday, Chen, wearing green prison uniform, looked into the camera as he apologised to Zoomlion, the firm targeted in his articles.
“I’m willing to admit my guilt and to show repentance. I offer sincere apologies to Zoomlion, which has suffered a loss, to the public trust of the news industry as well as to my family who all suffered. For the shareholders of Zoomlion? I apologise too,” he said.
“I did this mainly because I hankered after money and fame. I’ve been used. I’ve realised my wrongdoing. I’ve violated the ethics of journalism. I’ve been reflecting a lot on how these things happened. I am probably not the only one in today’s press world (to commit this kind of practice), and the entire news industry should take this as a lesson.”
Chen was detained last Friday on “suspicion of damaging business reputation” after he wrote a series of articles on “financial problems” at Zoomlion, a partly state-owned construction machinery manufacturer.
The New Express on Wednesday ran a full-page editorial on its front page to call for Chen’s release, a rare example of media defying authorities that drew an outpouring of sympathy and support online.
China’s media regulator also vowed to protect “lawful reporting rights”, state media said, in an unusual official intervention over press freedom.
Official state news agency Xinhua said on Saturday that Chen had admitted to “having released unverified and untrue stories about a company for money and fame and expressed his apology”, citing police. It said that he had acted “at the request of others” without elaborating.
“Chen fabricated facts and wrote more than 10 reports based on supplied materials,” it added.
In his published articles Chen accused Zoomlion of providing fraudulent accounting figures such as inflated profit data, and of a suspicious management buyout that caused “losses to state assets”.
Zoomlion is about 20 percent owned by the state, and is listed on the Hong Kong and Shenzhen stock exchanges with a total market capitalisation of more than $8 billion.
In an interview with Chinese news portal Sina, a Zoomlion representative said New Express’s allegations were groundless.
But New Express said that they had reviewed Chen’s articles and found no significant errors.
“We have always thought that as long as we report in a responsible way, there would be no problem,” it said in its editorial defending Chen.
China’s General Administration of Press and Publication, Radio, Film and Television (GAPPRFT) — a key part of Beijing’s mechanisms to control the media — said it was “highly concerned” by Chen’s detention.
Chinese media were also largely critical of Chen’s arrest, accusing police of abuse of power.
The authorities have launched a broad crackdown on “online rumours”, with a recent rule saying that Internet users could face three years in prison for writing defamatory messages that are then re-posted 500 times.
The case comes amid a wide anti-corruption drive in China, which has already claimed the scalps of Bo Xilai, one of the ruling Communist party’s top-ranking politicians, Jiang Jiemin, who once oversaw state-owned firms, and Liu Tienan, previously the deputy director of China’s National Development and Reform Commission.
Tags: Bo Xilai, censored, censorship, Chen Yongzhou, China, China's General Administration of Press and Publication, Chinese, civil rights, Communist Party, Communist Party propaganda, control the media, free media, freedom of the press, GAPPRFT, human rights, Jiang Jiemin, propaganda, rule of law, Southern Weekly, Zoomlion