August 28, 2015 / 9:20 AM / 2 years ago

China investigates executives at party newspaper's website

BEIJING (Reuters) - Two executives of the company that runs the website of the Chinese Communist Party’s top newspaper are being investigated for corruption, the state prosecutor said on Friday, the latest blemish on state media caught up in a crackdown on graft.

Liao Hong, chairman of People.cn Co Ltd., the online platform of the People’s Daily, has been placed under “compulsory measures”, a term that typically denotes detention, for suspected crimes relating to bribery, the top prosecutor said.

The company’s vice chairman, Chen Zhixia, was also being investigated, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate said in a statement on its website.

“The investigation is ongoing,” the prosecutor said, without giving further details.

Liao and Chen could not be reached for comment and it is not clear if they had lawyers.

The People’s Daily newspaper, in a statement carried on its website, said it demanded the company fully cooperate with the investigation and learn lessons from the case, adding that the website was operating as normal.

“People.cn will as always do its propaganda reporting work well, upholding the guiding principles of unity, stability, encouragement and positive propaganda,” it said.

Liao, who was also chief editor, had been a long-time journalist and executive at the website. In 2009, he won a top government journalism prize, according to his biography on People.cn.

China’s graft busters have gone after other executives and journalists within China’s influential state-run media, part of a broad crackdown on corruption that has swept official ranks since President Xi Jinping took power in 2012.

Guo Zhenxi, the advertising director at China Central Television and director-general of its finance and economics channel was detained in June 2014 for suspected bribery.

Several of the network’s other senior producers, executives and journalists have faced investigation recently.

Critics have long pointed to corruption within the ranks at state media, arguing blackmail is widespread and journalists are susceptible to bribery.

While the government keeps a tight rein on domestic media, reforms over the past decade that have allowed greater media commercialization and limited increases in editorial independence, combined with the rise of social media, have weakened government control.

That has led to periodic crackdowns on domestic media, including sacking of staff deemed to have stepped out of line or who were seen as questioning the Communist Party’s wide-ranging controls and censorship.

Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Robert Birsel

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