Chinese media boss jailed 4 years for graft

BEIJING • A Chinese court has sentenced the former head of one of the country's best-known financial newspapers to four years in prison, closing a massive media corruption case as Beijing tightens control over the press.

Shen Hao, former president of 21st Century Media, was convicted of extortion and blackmail, "forced transactions" and embezzlement yesterday, the Shanghai Pudong New Area People's Court said in a statement on its official social media account.

Shen is one of the 30 executives at the company, its website and related publications prosecuted by the authorities earlier this year.

The firm owns the 21st Century Business Herald, a financial newspaper known for its aggressive investigative reporting.

The staff were accused of demanding payments for positive news from listed firms and prominent companies, while publishing "malicious" attacks on those who refused to cooperate, earlier Chinese media reports said.

The practice of businesses paying media to run or delete stories is seen as widespread in China.

But the wave of arrests at 21st Century Media has raised fears of selective enforcement against liberal journalists. The authorities announced a nationwide campaign against media extortion last year.

Le Bing, another former official of the company, got a suspended two-year sentence for embezzlement, the court said.

The trial comes days after a Chinese court handed down a three- year suspended prison sentence to civil rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang for posts on his social media account that "incited ethnic hatred", sparking increased fears over expression online.

Verdicts on other people related to the case will be announced later yesterday, the court added.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 25, 2015, with the headline 'Chinese media boss jailed 4 years for graft'. Print Edition | Subscribe