China revokes publishing licences over blackmail

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's media regulator has revoked the publishing licenses of a business news website and a weekly newspaper for engaging in blackmail, state news agency Xinhua said on Thursday, as the country cracks down on corruption in the media industry.

The website of the 21st Century Business Herald newspaper and the weekly, Money Week, were punished because they "forced clients to sign advertisement and service contracts by threatening to publish negative news about them", Xinhua said.

It cited the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television.

The government shut down the website last year, and the stripping of its publishing license eliminates any prospect it will re-open soon.

The website and weekly, along with the 21st Century Business Herald newspaper itself, were also found to have "irregular management practices", Xinhua said.

"The 21st Century Business Herald was ordered to conduct internal inspections and restructuring of its management board,"it added.

The government has vowed to crack down on corruption in many industries including the media.

A trend towards greater commercialisation in Chinese media - still heavily controlled by the state - has put pressure on companies to generate greater profits.

Last year, Shanghai prosecutors arrested Shen Hao, president of 21st Century Media Ltd. and publisher of the influential business daily 21st Century Business Herald, on counts of extortion, bribery and misappropriation of funds.

"Media involved in blackmail have had a vile social impact, seriously harmed public interests, undermined market order and marred the credibility and image of journalists," Xinhua said, citing a statement from the regulator.

Chinese media organisations must learn from the incident and step up their "internal regulation" when it comes to news reporting, it added.