Editor, scribes, PR executives held in China for extortion

BEIJING (TIP): Chinese police have detained eight journalists and public relations (PR) executives for alleged extortion in Shanghai. They include the editor-in-chief of a popular business news website and heads of two PR agencies. The Shanghai Municipal Public Security Office said the journalists of the news website 21cbh.com and PR firms worked together to extort money from dozens of companies since November 2013. They offered favorable coverage in return.

China has covered journalists under its anti-corruption drive along with government officials. The move comes amid several investigations and detentions of journalists, including senior editors and presenters of the state broadcaster, China Central Television, on charges of bribery in recent weeks. The detained journalists usually targeted companies vulnerable to adverse media coverage. These included those seeking stock listing or undergoing management restructuring. The website ran positive stories with exaggerated content after receiving “huge payments”.

Guangdong-based 21st Century Media Co, which runs the website, claims to be “the largest professional media operator in the Chinese financial and business media industry”. It owns major print publications like the 21st Century Business Herald, Money Week and 21st Century Business Review. Victims of this journalist-PR agency nexus included several major companies from Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong. The two PR firms investigated are based in Shanghai and Shenzhen. The official Xinhua news agency gave surnames of the website’s editor in chief as Liu and his deputy as Zhou.

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