September 25, 2014 / 11:07 AM / 5 years ago

China detains two executives at embattled business newspaper

BEIJING (Reuters) - China detained two executives at an embattled financial newspaper company on Thursday, state media reported, as an investigation into bribery at the paper widens.

Chinese authorities closed down the website of the paper, the 21st Century Business Herald, and opened an investigation into it this month after executives confessed they extorted “huge payments” from companies in exchange for quashing critical coverage.

The well-known newspaper’s chief editor, Shen Hao, and general manager, Chen Dongyang, were detained on Thursday afternoon, the official Xinhua news agency said on its microblog.

Eight suspects were already under investigation in connection with the case, including some working at public relations firms.

Suspects had extorted money from more than 100 companies since November 2013, Xinhua reported, demanding payment for positive coverage and “protection money” to stop negative reports.

The website would charge companies between 200,000 ($33,000) and 300,000 yuan ($49,000) in the form of advertising contracts to delete critical articles, according to Xinhua.

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

The investigation into the 21st Century Business Herald comes amid a crackdown at state broadcaster China Central Television, where prosecutors have detained a top news anchor and a senior executive is being investigated on bribery charges.

The government has vowed to crack down on corruption in many sectors including the media industry, where media watchers say graft is pervasive.

Reporting By Megha Rajagopalan; Editing by Robert Birsel

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