(AP) — A former chairman of the company that publishes one of China’s
most prominent business newspapers was sentenced to prison Thursday for
coercing companies into paying to avoid negative coverage.
The announcement in September 2014 that executives of 21st Century
Media Co. were accused of running a multimillion-dollar extortion racket
highlighted accusations of rampant misconduct in China’s news industry.
The former chairman, Shen Hao, was convicted of extortion, "forced
transactions" and embezzlement, the Shanghai Pudong New Area People’s
Court said in a statement. He was sentenced to four years in prison and
fined 60,000 yuan ($9,500).
21st Century Media was fined 9.5 million yuan ($1.5 million).
Its former chief financial officer, Le Bing, was convicted of
embezzlement and given a suspended two-year sentence.
Companies were coerced into paying more than 200 million yuan ($32
million) for advertising and were threatened with negative news coverage
if they refused, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. It said
Shen received 7 million yuan ($1.1 million) of that and other executives
shared 13 million yuan ($2.1 million).
News reports in April said prosecutors had authorized the arrest of 21
people, including the publisher and general manager of 21st Century
Business Herald. No details have been released on the identities of the
others or the status of their cases.
Authorities ordered 21st Century Media to close one of China’s most
prominent business news websites, 21cbh.com, and a magazine, Money
All newspapers, television and radio stations and other news media in
China are owned by state entities or by the ruling Communist Party. But
most are required to support themselves financially and are allowed to
make editorial decisions within the party’s censorship guidelines.
Journalists routinely accept money from companies to report on events
and sometimes seek payments to suppress negative information.
In a separate case, the director of state television’s financial news
channel was accused last year of extracting money from companies,
according to news reports. Companies paid to avoid negative news
coverage or bought advertising or gave stock options for favorable