Top editor at New Express fired over reporter's fake story scandal

Removal of New Express editor-in-chief and president is part of deeper reshuffle ordered after reporter admits taking bribes to fabricate stories

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 November, 2013, 3:02pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 November, 2013, 3:35am

The editor-in-chief and president of the Guangzhou-based New Express, Li Yihang , has been fired, the latest development in the drama swirling around the tabloid newspaper.

His removal was announced by the paper's parent, the Yangcheng Evening News, on its official Sina Weibo account yesterday. It follows the arrest of New Express reporter Chen Yongzhou , who is accused of damaging the reputation of construction equipment giant Zoomlion.

Li was replaced as president by Liu Hongbing, party secretary of the Yangcheng Evening News, while Sun Xuan, a member of the Communist Party committee of the Yangcheng Evening News, takes over as the tabloid's editor-in-chief. Liu and Sun keep their roles in the mother paper.

The parent paper's party committee also decided to reshuffle other members of the New Express management, the report said.

According to New Express reporters, Li is a respected and "professionally capable" figure who has worked his way up from being a frontline reporter.

The expected reshuffle came after Guangdong's press regulator, the Guangdong Administration of Press and Publication, Radio, Film and Television, issued a statement on prime time national television on Thursday ordering an overhaul and fresh leadership at New Express.

Reporter Chen fell foul of the authorities after writing a dozen articles accusing Hong Kong- and Shenzhen-listed Zoomlion of financial fraud. New Express initially stood by the reporter's articles but Chen, in a dramatic U-turn, said on China Central Television he had been paid by "others" to fabricate his reports.

The national press regulator yesterday ordered its local branch offices to do more to stop journalistic malpractices like fabrication, paid news and blackmailing. It said reporters and media outlets should learn from the incident and encourage the public to report abuses by journalists.

New Express has also been blamed for chaotic editorial management for allowing the defamatory articles to be published.

News of the reshuffle was expected to be published in yesterday's Yangcheng Evening News along with an in-house editorial commentary, according to one of the paper's reporters.

However the commentary - urging journalists to learn lessons from Chen's mistakes while praising the Guangdong press regulator - was replaced by a harsher editorial by the People's Daily in the print edition of the tabloid.

"Using media as a public tool to illegally obtain profits, challenging the bottom line of journalistic ethics and damaging the credibility of media … is an evil member of the herd," the editorial said.