BEIJING: A Chinese newspaper issued a front-page apology on Sunday recanting its bold defense of an employee arrested after reporting on a company’s “financial problems,” adding another twist to the high-profile media controversy.
The statement was the latest public disavowal of the journalist Chen Yongzhou—despite initial public sympathy after his detention and open support by his employer, the New Express, in a rare act of defiance against powerful state censors.
“This newspaper was not strict enough about thoroughly fact-checking the draft of the report,” it said in a small announcement on a bottom corner of its front page.
“After the incident occurred the newspaper took inappropriate measures, seriously harming the public trust of the media.”
The paper, which is based in the southern city of Guangzhou, promised to “make serious corrections” and better ensure that its reporters and editors “comply with professional journalistic ethics and regulations.”
The statement came a day after Chen appeared on state television in a green prison uniform to “confess” after being arrested more than a week earlier on “suspicion of damaging business reputation.”
He had written 15 articles accusing the engineering giant Zoomlion of “financial problems” including inflating its profits.
Zoomlion is about 20-percent owned by the state and is listed on the Hong Kong and Shenzhen stock exchanges with a total market capitalization of more than US$8 billion.
The official news agency Xinhua said Saturday that Chen had admitted to “having released unverified and untrue stories about a company for money and fame,” and that he had acted “at the request of others.”
“I did this mainly because I hankered after money and fame. I’ve been used. I’ve realized my wrongdoing,” Xinhua quoted him as saying.
The All-China Journalists Association also issued a statement on Saturday criticizing Chen’s actions and saying the newspaper “seriously neglected its professional duties.”
The apology by New Express, a tabloid, starkly contrasted its initial reaction—a full-page editorial printed days after Chen’s detention with the front-page headline “Please release our man” in large print.