On Friday, November 23, 2018, Safeguard Defenders organized a press conference in London for a group of 45 invited media, diplomatic and NGO representatives, outlining a complaint filed against China Central Television (CCTV) and its international arm China Global Television (CGTN) with the United Kingdom’s broadcast regulator.
The press conference was hosted by Safeguard Defenders’ Peter Dahlin, and British citizen, former Reuters journalist Peter Humphrey. Alongside presentation of the official complaint, filed with Ofcom at 11:25 that morning, it also constituted the launch event for Safeguard Defenders new book, edited by Peter Dahlin.
The complaint is based on the fact that CCTV collaborated with Chinese police in extracting, recording, producing, and later airing, two confessions by Peter Humphrey, made long before his trial, and against his stated objections. By broadcasting both TV “confessions”, CCTV not only collaborated in denying Mr. Humphrey the right to a fair trial, but by broadcasting it on its international English language channel, including in the UK, it violated the UK’s Broadcasting Code. The same behavior by a state broadcaster has earlier been penalized, in accordance with the Broadcasting code, leading to the revocation of the license for that state broadcaster, Press TV, to broadcast, in the UK.
The complaint, exhaustive in nature, highlights how some twenty aspects of the Broadcasting code has been violated in broadcasting these “confessions”, and the complaint comes as CCTV/CGTN is about to open a major production center in London. The new center is the centerpiece in the European dimension in Xi Jinping’s signature “going out” policy, and is one of several developments, working in tandem, in expanding Chinese party/state influence in Europe. Should the complaint place CCTV/CGTN under review, it will have no choice but to cease broadcasting such “confessions”, or risk losing athe bility to expand its European operations for possibly years to come. Local media in Chiswick Park, the upscale area of London where the new CGTN center is to open, have reported that CIC – China Investment Corporation – paid 780 million pound for purchasing the Chiswick office Park complex.
Alongside presentation of the complaint, and on the role of Ofcom in the UK, in supervising and acting as guarantor that the Broadcasting code in enforced in the UK, the press conference also included Peter Dahlin presenting the new book “Trial By Media”, now available worldwide on Amazon as both paperback and in kindle edition. The book explores the role of CCTV and its journalists in not merely broadcasting, but helping extract, record and produce these “forced TV confessions” systematically since the rise of Xi Jinping, and presents eight victims’ testimonies, written as first person accounts. The book furthermore analyses the “going out” policy of Xi Jinping as it relates to Chinese state media, the massive reorganization of its media empire announced at the national congress in March 2018, and other concurrent developments working in tandem – all with the aim of expanding Chinese influencing operations. It notes, as has been noted in Australia before, how ‘partnerships’ are being used in a massively increased scale the last few years to co-opt or neutralize independent Chinese language media around Europe, and how this, alongside massive investment plans for CCTV’s global operations, is being guided by the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work Department.
The book is a wakeup call both to the true nature of CCTV as a state/party broadcaster, but also its rapidly expanding reach across the world, including in Europe.
The press conference was completed with a presentation by Peter Dahlin of how Ofcom stands a chance to affect positive change in the behavior of China’s state broadcaster, and that the timing for such, before several soon to be taken steps, in expanding its reach, will maximize its possible result. By placing CCTV under greater scrutiny, a political decision will be forced upon the Chinese Communist Party as to whether CCTV shall continue to collaborate in carrying out gross human rights violations in making and airing such confessions internationally, or if it should change, for the sake of not derailing a very costly, very important, expansion plan directed by Xi Jinping himself.
We call upon Ofcom to perform its regulatory role in a fair manner, where China’s state broadcaster must be held to the same standards as Iranian media, or for that matter, any and all media that seeks to operate in the UK. Ofcom, a non-political body, has been given the opportunity to affect positive change merely in applying its Broadcasting rules without undue political considerations.
Chinese broadcasters and media, even those that are a direct arm of the CCP, must be allowed to partake in the broader conversation, in the UK and beyond, and censorship cannot, nor should never, be fought with censorship. Chinese media should be encouraged to fight for viewers and readers, and be allowed to share its perspective on world developments, but such can only be offered with fair, and consistent, application of rules. The UK’s role in the world as a country governed by the rule of law must be protected, and for that, the rules for broadcasters must be applied equally to all. This action by Ofcom will very likely decide whether there will be future British victims of this behavior in China.