Guangzhou tabloid again urges Hunan police to release reporter

Media regulator voicing 'concern' puts pressure on public security ministry

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 October, 2013, 3:17am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 October, 2013, 4:15pm

A Guangzhou tabloid yesterday ran another front-page appeal to police in Changsha, Hunan province, to release one of its reporters, after the rare intervention of the media regulator in the work of another ministry.

The officially sanctioned All-China Journalists' Association yesterday also renewed its call for action, saying that both it and "relevant departments" continued to be very concerned over the detention of the reporter, Chen Yongzhou.

"We hope the Hunan authorities can produce a legally sound and convincing explanation," the journalists' association said.

That came after a rare intervention late on Wednesday evening by the State General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television.

Chen was seized in Guangzhou on Friday by Changsha police after his newspaper, New Express, ran a series of reports alleging fraud at construction-equipment giant Zoomlion, based in Changsha.

Police had accused him of "fabricating facts in his reportage" and "damaging the commercial reputation" of Zoomlion.

But as public pressure grew after Chen's newspaper ran a front-page appeal urging his release, the media regulator weighed in, making a rare public comment close to midnight.

It said it was "very concerned" for the reporter's plight and added that it staunchly safeguarded the legitimate rights of journalists.

The journalists' association also said publicly that it had taken the matter to the Ministry of Public Security, pressing the ministry to ensure Chen's safety.

The front-page appeal in yesterday's New Express said, in bold characters: "Again, please release him."

A sub-heading stated that everything should be resolved using the rule of law, and that there should be no illegal arrests. It also reported that the state news agency Xinhua had been closely following the detention.

"I know our paper's front-page appeal has made a huge impact but it is only for Chen's release," said Chen's supervisor, who declined to be named. "The second bold front-page today could be a result of the support shown by Xinhua by reporting our plea," the editor said.

Yin Hui, an editorial manager of New Express, declined to comment, other than to say that the newsroom was operating normally.

Chen's wife made an online statement via New Express' Sina Weibo account. She recalled that her husband had been taken away by Changsha police driving a black Mercedes-Benz with a Hunan provincial licence plate the day after her birthday.

Analysts said New Express' front-page appeal could be seen as a reasonable response that steered away from politics, and would be unlikely to lead to punishment for the tabloid.

The move attracted support from other mainland newspapers, including the influential Southern Metropolis Daily, The Beijing News and Yangcheng Evening News.