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Newspaper demands release of journalist for 2nd day

Updated: 2013-10-24 15:54
( Xinhua)

BEIJING - A Chinese newspaper published a front-page plea for a second day on Thursday for police to free a journalist detained after reporting "financial problems" at a leading engineering company.

The New Express, based in the southern city of Guangzhou, carried an editorial under the headline "Once again please release (him)" in oversized black print.

It called for the police to solve the problem within the framework of the law, instead of interrogating journalist Chen Yongzhou.

On Wednesday, the paper carried a full-page editorial under the headline "Please release (him)".

Chen was held on Saturday in Guangzhou by police on "suspicion of damaging business reputation" after he reported "financial problems" at Zoomlion, a giant engineering company based in Changsha, capital of Central China's Hunan province.

The newspaper and Chen "fabricated facts and printed 18 negative reports about Zoomlion without a field survey and verification process," according to a source with the Changsha municipal public security bureau on Wednesday.

Of the 18 reports, 14 were written by Chen. The articles were written from September 26, 2012 to August 8, this year.

Chen's accusations that Zoomlion caused losses of state assets, had falsified sales and financial figures, and had massive advertising costs were all fabricated, according to the public security bureau.

The bureau invited Hunan Diyang Judicial Identification Office to verify the losses in the 18 reports on September 17 and found Chen was suspected of faking and spreading false facts, thus damaging Zoomlion's business reputation and causing the company heavy losses.

According to the law, the bureau approved the criminal detention of Chen on Saturday.

"Before they wrote those reports, neither the journalist nor the paper directly interviewed us," said Du Feng, chairman assistant of Zoomlion.

"They did not visit our company. No phone calls, text messages and e-mails for interview requests," Du told Xinhua on Wednesday.

A senior executive from Zoomlion visited the New Express in June, hoping to clarify the facts and stop the false reports but failed, he said.

A senior executive from the New Express denied Zoomlion's accusation, saying Chen's reports were objective.

"We did not discover Chen did anything that was against professional ethics and laws," according to the executive on condition of anonymity.

"The only error he made was mistakenly writing the 513 million yuan (83.6 million U.S. dollars) 'advertising and operating expenses' as 'advertising costs'," he said.

Damaging business reputation often happens between commercial competitors. A journalist's negative report is not strong enough to cause such crime, said Xu Songlin, a professor with the law school of South China University of Technology.

The crime of damaging business reputation is an intentional crime, which means deliberately faking facts and spreading them. If the police did not find evidence that could prove Chen's deliberate fabrication, they had no right to treat him as a suspect.

All-China Journalists Association has called for the police to handle the case according to the law, guarantee the journalist's safety and prevent extorting confessions by torture, the Beijing News quoted an association official as saying on Thursday.

The association also called for the early release of the journalist if no evidence of a crime is found.

Zoomlion and its subsidiaries earned more than 90 billion yuan in sales revenues and paid more than 12 billion yuan in taxes last year. It is listed both in Shenzhen and Hong Kong, according to the company's website.