A Chinese journalist arrested over a series of articles criticizing a partly state-owned firm appeared on public television yesterday to apologize, with state media saying he admitted the articles were “unverified and false.”
Chen Yongzhou’s (陳永洲) newspaper, the New Express, made headlines when it ran a front-page appeal for his release and said it stood by the reports. It was not immediately available to comment on his apology.
Appearing on Chinese state broadcaster CCTV on Saturday, Chen apologized to Zoomlion (中聯重科), 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 apologize too,” he said.
The admission was met with skepticism on Chinese social media site Weibo, with one user named Zhuiliu saying: “It’s the trend now to confess on TV without a trial or seeing a lawyer.”
Another commentator, using the handle Shi Shusi, said: “There is a strong law to safeguard companies, but not one for the media.”
A third wrote: “CCTV has become a private court!”
Chen was detained on Friday last week 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.
China’s media regulator also vowed to protect “lawful reporting rights,” state media said.
Xinhua news agency said 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.
“I did this mainly because I hankered after money and fame. I’ve been used. I’ve realized my wrongdoing. I’ve violated the ethics of journalism,” it quoted him as saying.
“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,” he was quoted as saying.