BEIJING (AP) — The Committee to Protect Journalists is urging Chinese authorities to release a reporter accused of spreading false information on the country's stock market meltdown, calling it the latest act of media intimidation by President Xi Jinping's administration.
On Monday, a state broadcaster showed Wang Xiaolu, a reporter for privately owned financial magazine Caijing, confessing that he wrote a false report that "caused such a great damage to the country and stock investors."
Press freedom groups say China's leaders are seeking scapegoats for the collapse of a stock market bubble that was engineered by government policies. China's benchmark Shanghai Composite Index is down more than 31 percent since early June when months of sizzling gains, that were cheered along by state media, began to unravel.
Caijing said last week that Wang had been detained in relation to a July 20 article about the China Securities Regulatory Commission, the market regulator, considering ending interventions aimed at stabilizing share prices. The Commission immediately denied the report. It regularly made interventions up to mid-August.
The official Xinhua News Agency reported that Wang's story caused "abnormal fluctuations" in the market.
Bob Dietz, the Asia program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, called on authorities to immediately release Wang.
"A statement aired by a state-run broadcaster, before the 'suspect' has ever appeared in court, shows the lengths to which the Xi Jinping government will go to intimidate journalists," Dietz said in a statement.
Reporters Without Borders' secretary-general Christophe Deloire said last week: "Blaming the stock market crisis on a lone reporter is beyond absurd."
Chinese journalists have been shown on television appearing to confess in the past, including 71-year-old Gao Yu, who was sentenced in April to seven years in prison on a charge of disclosing state secrets.