BEIJING - A Chinese journalist arrested over a series of articles criticising a partly state-owned firm appeared on public television Saturday to apologise, with state media saying he admitted the articles were "unverified and false".
Chen Yongzhou's newspaper, the New Express, made headlines around the world earlier in the week when it ran a rare front-page appeal for his release and said it stood by the reports, but was not immediately available to comment on his apology.
Appearing on Chinese state broadcaster CCTV on Saturday, Chen, wearing a green prison uniform, looked into the camera as he apologised to Zoomlion, the firm targeted in his articles.
"I'm willing to admit my guilt and to show repentance. I offer sincere apologies to Zoomlion, which has suffered a loss, to the public trust of the news industry as well as to my family who all suffered. For the shareholders of Zoomlion... I apologise too," he said.
The admission was met with scepticism on Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, with one user named Zhuiliu saying: "It's the trend now to confess on TV without a trial or seeing a lawyer."
Another commentator, using the handle Shi Shusi, said: "There is a strong law to safeguard companies, but not one for the media."
A third wrote: "CCTV has become a private court!"
Chen was detained last Friday on "suspicion of damaging business reputation" after he wrote a series of articles on "financial problems" at Zoomlion, a partly state-owned construction machinery manufacturer.
The New Express on Wednesday ran a full-page editorial on its front page to call for Chen's release, a rare example of media defying authorities that drew an outpouring of sympathy and support online.
China's media regulator also vowed to protect "lawful reporting rights", state media said, in an unusual official intervention over press freedom.
Official state news agency Xinhua said that Chen had admitted to "having released unverified and untrue stories about a company for money and fame and expressed his apology", citing police. It said that he had acted "at the request of others" without elaborating.