Chinese police have detained eight people from a prominent business news site and two public relations firms after accusing them of extorting money from companies in return for positive coverage.
Those detained from the 21st Century Business Herald, based in the southern city of Guangdong, include the outlet's editor and deputy editor as well as others from its business and editorial staff, Radio Free Asia reported Sept. 4. Staff at public relations companies based in Shanghai and Shenzen were also arrested, according to Xinhua, a government-owned news service.
The journalists were accused of cooperating with PR staff to target companies that were selling new shares, going through restructuring or were otherwise susceptible to negative coverage. Money was extorted from dozens of companies since November 2013 under the scheme, the report said. The reporters would target the companies in the name of news reporting, and if the companies paid up, released positive stories about them or spiked negative stories.
Companies that declined to pay became the subject of "malicious attacks," Xinhua said.
Corruption is not a new phenomenon in Chinese media. In 2009, 10 journalists were accused of receiving money from the owners of a mine in exchange for not running a story about an accident that killed 35 people before the 2008 Summer Olympics. In July a prominent Chinese news anchor for China Central Television was detained for alleged bribery.