The Guangzhou-based Yangcheng Evening News Group is set to launch a probe into allegations that one of its reporters from a subsidiary newspaper had taken bribes to malign Zoomlion, a heavy machinery-maker from Changsha in Central China's Hunan Province.
Chen Yongzhou, the journalist for the New Express, was detained by the police on October 18 and accused of "fabricating facts" in his series on Zoomlion. Chen had confessed to doing so for money on China Central Television (CCTV) on Saturday.
In a statement published on the front page of its Tuesday edition, the group said, it will dispatch investigators to New Express to question the management. It also said it will handle "all problems in a serious manner and overlook the rectification" of the New Express.
A total of 14 negative reports about the company were allegedly written by Chen between September 2012 and August 2013.
The New Express had previously called for Chen's release twice on its front page and the All-China Journalists Association, an organization to protect the legal rights of reporters, had released a statement on its official website saying that the legal rights of journalists should be protected.
A person who supervises the Yangcheng Evening News Group had then said that authorities should draw a clear line between news reporting and damaging business reputation.
But the group made a U-turn after the CCTV show on which Chen confessed to taking a total of 500,000 yuan ($82,200) in bribes from anonymous sources to write negative reports on Zoomlion.
"For those who were hurt in this case - Zoomlion, the credibility of the news industry - I apologize in earnest. To the stockholders of Zoomlion, if my articles affected the market values, I am willing to apologize," Chen said on the show.
Chen violated his professional ethics as a journalist and had damaged media's credibility, the journalists' association had said in an earlier statement. It also asked his employer to bear responsibility for "dereliction of duty" that led to the publication of the untrue reports.
The Sunday edition of the New Express then apologized on its front page by saying the newspaper had failed to examine Chen's stories.
"Furthermore, the inappropriate action taken afterwards severely damaged our credibility and we were taught a lesson," the New Express had said.
Last week, the Changsha police announced that the case was being handled in accordance with the law and they would make timely updates to the public.
The Yangcheng Evening News Group could not be reached for comments at the time of going to press.