Regulator calls for reshuffle at 'New Express' over Zoomlion scandal

Guangdong's press watchdog wants changes at management level after the Zoomlion scandal

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 October, 2013, 9:32pm
UPDATED : Friday, 01 November, 2013, 10:02am

Guangdong's press regulator said the management of the New Express tabloid should be reshuffled after a series of "incorrect" reports that alleged financial problems at heavy equipment manufacturer Zoomlion.

The statement by the Guangdong Administration of Press and Publication, Radio, Film and Television concluded an official investigation into the case that saw the reporter behind the articles, Chen Yongzhou , held by police in Changsha , Hunan , where Zoomlion is based.

"Preliminary investigation shows New Express under the Yangcheng Evening News Group published numerous incorrect reports about Zoomlion from September 2012 to August 2013. The editorial management of New Express was chaotic," it said.

It ordered Yangcheng Evening News to revoke Chen's journalist accreditation and overhaul New Express. The reshuffle of the management should start immediately, the statement said.

The instruction was aired during national prime time evening news, six days after Chen confessed on national TV that he received money to write the series. The video showed Chen - handcuffed, wearing a green prison jumpsuit and his head shaved - admitting to accepting hundreds of thousands of yuan from an unidentified middleman. The man supplied him with articles to publish under Chen's byline. Chen was arrested on a charge of damaging the reputation of Zoomlion, state media reported on Wednesday.

A reporter with New Express said "provincial propaganda department officials had already paid a visit to the newspaper and spoke with editors who have handled the problematic articles" prior to the announcement by the Guangdong press regulator.

Another reporter with the tabloid felt sorry to see their chief editor leave because "he is a professionally capable editor".

"If he's really going to be replaced, it's a great loss to the paper's future development," the reporter said.

Current New Express editor-in-chief Li Yihang could not be reached for comment. Reporters said he worked his way up from being a frontline reporter.

Chen was taken away by Changsha police in Guangzhou on October 18, prompting the newspaper to publish rare front-page appeals last week calling for his release.

The unusual move by the paper drew international headlines and widespread support, including from the mainland's journalist association and the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television.

The saga took an unexpected turn on Saturday when Chen said he had fabricated more than a dozen stories accusing Zoomlion of engaging in sales fraud among other financial issues, in exchange for money and fame.

Chen said he "did not check the content of these articles" before handing them to his editors. One payment was for 500,000 yuan (HK$637,000), he said.

New Express issued a front-page apology on Sunday. The following day, the tabloid's parent newspaper, the Yangcheng Evening News, announced it would launch an investigation and restructure New Express.