Media campaign for detained journalist Chen Yongzhou gathers pace

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 October, 2013, 3:57pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 October, 2013, 4:54pm

For the second day in a row, the Guangdong-based New Express newspaper has called for the release of its journalist Chen Yongzhou in a front page editorial.

“Again, please release him”, the tabloid wrote on its front page. The paper called on police in Changsha to handle Chen’s case according to the law and argued that the authorities in the Hunan provincial capital had “abused their power” by pursuing criminal proceedings against a journalist who was just doing his job.

Chen’s paper caused a public outcry on Wednesday when it urged for Chen’s release in a rare front page editorial. Many renowned commentators, from liberal writer Li Chengpeng to the conservative editor-in-chief of the Global Times, Hu Xijin, have spoken out in support of Chen.

Even the national media regulator, the State General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, issued a statement saying it was “very concerned” with Chen’s detention.

The muckraking journalist is the second staffer from the New Express to be detained for his reporting in as many months. Liu Hu, a Chongqing-based reporter, has since been charged with libel after calling for an investigation into a senior official.

Chen was detained last Friday by police in Guangzhou and has since been held at a detention centre in Changsha, Hunan province, on charges of “damaging the commercial reputation” of Zoomlion, a local maker of construction equipment.

The company said on Wednesday it had filed a police report, arguing that his series of investigative reports alleging financial fraud was incorrect and damaged the company’s reputation.

Police said on Thursday that they had decided to pursue the case and would report further steps in due course.

By Wednesday evening, media gag orders started to circulate among journalists online. Some of the tens of thousands of comments on microblogs have since been deleted.

However major newspapers such as the Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolis Daily, the Beijing News, Beijing Times and The Mirror in the capital, the Hangzhou-based Qianjiang Evening News, the Jinan-based Qilu Evening News and the Henan Business Daily in Zhengzhou have called for Chen’s release.