On February 4, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed that a report on COVID-19 in China aired by the BBC on January 26 was “fake news.” It said in a statement that the UK public broadcaster had politicised the pandemic in its reporting and had held ideological bias against China.
Beijing demanded an apology from the BBC and warned that it reserves the right to take a “further step” in addition to lodging the representation.
In response to IFJ’s request for comment, a BBC spokesperson said: “We stand by our accurate and fair reporting of events in China and totally reject these unfounded accusations of fake news or ideological bias.”
China’s statement came minutes after Britain’s media regulator, Ofcom, revoked the broadcasting licence of China Global Television Network (CGTN), the English-language services of China’s state media China Central Television (CCTV).
Ofcom concluded that Star China Media Limited (SCML), the licence-holder for the CGTN service, did not have editorial control over CGTN’s output and was therefore not a lawful broadcast licensee.
On February 4, London-headquartered The Daily Telegraph separately reported that three Chinese spies who had worked in Britain on journalism visas had been expelled over the past year.
The IFJ is concerned that China may have aimed its criticism at the BBC as retaliation for its recent disputes with the British government. The IFJ said: “The IFJ calls on Beijing to stop interfering in foreign news organizations’ reporting and to respect media freedom.”