Those being investigated work for the group’s influential newspapers 21st Century Business Herald (21CBH), Money weekly and online news portal 21cbh.com.
Shen Hao (pictured) and Chen Dongyang, the publisher and general manager of 21CBH, have been detained by police along with the group’s editors, marketing executives and other publishers.
Shen and several other detainees have reportedly confessed to extortion and blackmail.
The case came to light in early September when eight people from the 21cbh.com and two public relations firms were accused of conspiring to extort money from companies in exchange for positive stories. Companies refusing to pay were told they would be attacked by negative reports. Over 200 companies were blackmailed or forced to advertise on the news portal.
“I have set very high revenue targets for editors, encouraging them to seek clients through blackmailing,” Shen told Xinhua News. “I organized, supported, coordinated and participated in the extortion; I must bear a big responsibility.”
Shen said he was aware that extortion is an economic crime but it is a common act among media companies, and he deeply regretted for his unlawful behavior.
Sources: Xinhua News, Reuters, Beijing News (新京报)
Hui Zhi is the Senior Manager for Content with the China Compliance Digest, where a version of this post first appeared.