Campaigners hail “long-awaited victory for press freedoms” as Wall Street Journal and Australia media ditch their partnerships with Chinese State media
Attention continues to grow on other media outlets including Handelsblatt and the Los Angeles Times
The Wall Street Journal and numerous Australian media outlets have caved to pressure from campaigners, severing ties with Chinese state propaganda outlet China Daily. Campaign groups including Free Tibet, International Campaign for Tibet, Australia Tibet Council and Tibet Initiative Deutschland, and over 120 global activist groups convened by International Tibet Network, launched the campaign early this year urging multiple outlets to cancel their lucrative deals.
Campaigners have recently established that the US-based Wall Street Journal has split from its deal with China Daily. According to a disclosure, logged last month by China Daily under the USA’s Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), payments ceased to the Wall Street Journal in July 2020. The outlet had been receiving funds in return for running propaganda articles for at least three and a half years prior to July 2020, which amounted to over $6 million USD. While the Wall Street Journal still lists China Daily as a partner on its website, China Daily content has not appeared in its newspaper since June.
Last week, news emerged that the Australian media group Nine Entertainment, whose publications include the Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian Financial Review and The Age, also quietly dropped their partnership with China Daily. The newspapers, previously under the ownership of Fairfax Media, had been running China Daily articles since 2016 and also appear to have severed ties over the summer.
These successes have given added momentum to a campaign that has already seen the Economist and the UK Daily Telegraph cancel deals with Chinese state media companies to run their content, following decades of tireless campaign work by activists to draw attention to the dangers posed by Chinese influence over our media.
Outlets such as China Daily and Beijing Review, which are under the control of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), have entered into partnerships with media outlets around the world, paying them millions of dollars worth of funds in exchange for running propaganda articles. The content usually appears as supplements called China Watch, which is designed to project the CCP’s trade, development and foreign policies to foreign audiences, as well as whitewashing human rights abuses in Tibet, Uyghur regions and Hong Kong. In recent years, China Watch supplements appearing in American and British newspapers have hailed the CCP’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, presented China’s repressive crackdown against the Uyghur people as a “law-based campaign of deradicalisation” and claimed that Tibetans, rather than living under massive state repression, have enjoyed decades of development and democratic reform.
The campaign continues to target a number of other media outlets including German newspaper Handelsblatt and the Los Angeles Times, which according to China Daily’s FARA report, received $340,000 for advertising campaigns during the May-October 2020 reporting period. The most recent China Watch supplement to appear in the Los Angeles Times, dated 29 November, featured a “Tibet Special”, which included a particularly concerning article stating that Tibetans are “embracing new changes in life” in what is, in reality, a mass labour programme involving over half a million Tibetans, many of whom are rural Tibetans who have been forced from their land and in some cases have undergone ideological “re-education”.
The editor of the Los Angeles Times has been contacted twice with no response, prompting a new action calling in the newspaper to follow the example of other newspapers and reject China Daily.
John Jones, Campaigns and Advocacy Manager at Free Tibet said:
“The news that further newspapers have taken the decision to scrap these shameful paid propaganda supplements is something that can be celebrated by Hongkongers, Tibetans, Uyghurs and other communities that not only have to struggle for their freedom but also struggle with the CCP’s lies. We will enjoy this victory and then seize the momentum to press on and challenge those media outlets that still think it is acceptable to print the Chinese government’s dangerous lies in exchange for money. These propaganda pieces are disappearing from more and more newspapers – our movement is winning.”
Gloria Montgomery, Campaigns Coordinator at International Tibet Network said:
“This is a major victory, and a moment to celebrate. The Chinese government has stifled media freedoms in Tibet for decades and, by accepting money from the Chinese government to hold propaganda The Wall Street Journal has been complicit in the crackdown on the freedom of Tibetans, Uyghurs, Chinese, and all human rights defenders who risk their lives on the frontlines to expose the realities of life under Chinese rule. We will build on these recent victories to ensure that other media outlets, including the LA Times, stop running this pro-Beijing content, betraying not only the victims of China’s rampant human rights violations but also threatening the very nature of our long cherished press freedoms at home.”
Bhuchung K. Tsering, Vice President of International Campaign for Tibet said:
“Newspapers like The Wall Street Journal benefit society by giving their readers the facts honestly and accurately. Sharing paid propaganda from the Chinese government is completely at odds with that mission. In this age of disinformation, all of us must pay closer attention to the lies infecting our democratic societies from Beijing, including lies about China’s ruthless occupation of Tibet, which has brutalized the Tibetan people for more than six decades. We urge other news outlets currently carrying Chinese propaganda as paid news to stop doing so.”
Dr Zoë Bedford, Executive Officer of Australia Tibet Council said:
“This is a huge victory for media freedoms in Australia. The partnership between China Daily and Australian media outlets, such as the Sydney Morning Herald, has long harmed the Australian public’s confidence in press freedoms in our country. This decision will go some way in restoring that confidence and will send Tibetans suffering under China’s brutal occupation a clear message that we will continue to fight for their human rights and resist the Chinese government’s influence on our soil.”