Media cooperate in two more televised “confessions”

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) expresses concerns that two media outlets appear to have acted as propaganda outlets for the Chinese authorities by reporting televised “confessions” by two human rights lawyers.

On March 1, the state-owned Global Times, sister newspaper of the People’s Daily, and Phoenix TV, a Mainland-funded Hong Kong outlet, exclusively reported “confessions” by two detained lawyers, Xie Yang and Jiang Tianyong. Xie and Jiang are seen as human rights lawyers because they have defended many grass root activists and politically sensitive cases in the past. The pair were detained in 2016, Xie for inciting subversion of State power and disturbing the order of the courts, and Jiang for illegally holding national secrets and subverting State power.

In the reported “confessions”, Xie denied he had suffered from torture, saying the reports were fabricated by Jiang. Jiang admitted that he did this in order to appeal to “the taste of western media”. However Jiang’s wife and his lawyer later rebutted the news reports. They said they believed the pair made the confessions under duress and were planning to file a lawsuit against the media outlets for defamation.

One journalist told the IFJ that the reports were organised by the police. “They even told the media which quotations to use in their reports,” the journalist said. As well, the news reports were actually conducted by Global Times alone, rather than the two media outlets.

The IFJ said: “We are not surprised to hear of such arrangements, because they are normal practice by non-accountable authorities. However, the Chinese authorities still have a public duty to explain why the reports were only made by two specially chosen media outlets, even though the cases were a matter of great public interest. We strongly believe that if Jiang and Xie did commit the crimes they are accused of, it is unfair and irregular to broadcast such “confessions” before they have receive any judicial hearing.”

In addition, the media outlets appear not to have fully exercised their duties to provide balanced reporting.

Televised confessions are not new in China. Chairman Mao Zedong often used the media as a propaganda tool. This changed after Mao died. However, in the past three years, this notorious method has become the major “weapon” to try to suppress dissenting voices. Furthermore, a selected few Hong Kong and Taiwan media are cooperating in these unethical arrangements.

We urge the Police Bureau of China to review the measures by which they select a media outlet to do such news reports before the people who “confess” are given a judicial hearing.

We also urge Global Times to review how these “exclusive” reports were done in order to satisfy the concerns of the public.

Last but not least, we urge all journalists to uphold their professional ethics and respect the truth.     

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946 

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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