Owner of tabloid at centre of reporter's detention calls for reform

Management at troubled New Express assures reporters that overhaul for media is 'normal'

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 October, 2013, 10:57pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 October, 2013, 2:34am

The owner of the New Express is sending a team to review operations at the tabloid, following the controversy over the detention of one of its reporters, Chen Yongzhou, after he alleged financial problems at a leading construction-equipment maker.

The parent Yangcheng Evening News made the announcement in a brief notice on its front page yesterday, saying: "Any problems uncovered will be dealt with severely, and the team should urge the newspaper to undertake serious reform."

Both newspapers last night refused to comment on a possible restructuring. But a New Express reporter said management at the newspaper had reassured staff they would not be affected.

"The reform would not be a drastic one. We believe that, at most, the chief editor might be replaced," the reporter said.

"Our supervisor told us it's normal for a media outlet to go through an overhaul … even if there is a price to pay, it would be a matter for individuals within the management."

Chen was called away from his home in Guangzhou on October 19 by police from Changsha in Hunan, where the construction-equipment company, Zoomlion, is based. He had written a series of articles that alleged financial problems at the company, which is listed in Hong Kong and on the mainland. He was accused of "fabricating facts in his reportage" and "damaging the commercial reputation" of a mainland firm.

In a confession aired by CCTV on Saturday, Chen said he did not write the reports, but a third party had given them to him to publish. After initially defending the quality of the reporting, New Express on Sunday did a U-turn, saying it had not been rigorous in fact-checking the reports.

Chen is under criminal detention by Changsha police but there has not been any indication of what charges he might face. A Guangdong-based media veteran said New Express would survive just as it had previous overhauls. "Chen is a scapegoat in this one. But this incident is being defined as the actions of an individual. Nothing major will happen to the newspaper," he said.

Another observer said the central government intended to use legal means to control reporters. "The signal is 'don't get into my area - anti-corruption is our job and you're not supposed to do it,'" said Dr Bo Zhiyue from the East Asian Institute of the National University of Singapore.