17 Dec 2019

Campaign against Chinese state TV CGTN expands to US, Canada

[19 December] Safeguard Defenders has stepped up its campaign against China's party-state TV company CCTV and its international arm CGTN for committing repeated and systematic broadcasting violations and filed official complaints in the US and Canada. These complaints focus on the airing of forced TV confessions.

These complaints are also the first time Safeguard Defenders has taken the campaign, which began over a year ago in the UK, to North America. Last November, Safeguard Defenders helped British businessman Peter Humphrey file a fairness and privacy complaint with Ofcom after CGTN aired two forced confessions of himself, and followed up with two further complaints in 2019.


The new complaints

On 16 December, Safeguard Defenders filed a complaint and appeal in Canada for the license re-appraisal of CGTN and CCTV-4 (CCTV's Chinese-language international channel) to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

In 2006, after a lengthy review, CRTC ruled that CCTV-4, despite earlier offensive content, could broadcast in Canada, without any extra scrutiny. However, this was given with the stated understanding no further violations would occur, otherwise it would investigate and if found in breach CRTC promised to take the channel off the air.

Our complaint against CCTV-4 and CGTN presents overwhelming evidence of the systematic practice of violations by both channels, over the course of six years. It calls on CTRC to honor its 2006 statement and initiate an investigation. 


Also on December 16, Safeguard Defenders filed an exhaustive complaint In the United States to media regulator Federal Communications Comission (FCC). That complaint outlined 50 broadcast violations made by CGTN and CCTV-4 on U.S. airwaves over six years. This complaint leveraged the FCC's narrower mandate to investigate the broadcasting of lies and intentional distortions and highlighted how China was using these broadcasts to influence both U.S. public oninion and U.S. political decision-making. 


And today, Safeguard Defenders has filed the fourth complaint to Ofcom, for the broadcast in the UK of CGTN documentary "Fighting Terrorism in Xinjiang" on the grounds of misleading the viewer, derogatory treatment of individuals and failure to show due impartiality and due accuracy. The offending programme contained 18 forced confession clips, one of a woman badly injured in hospital, and protrayed the Xinjiang mass internment camps as "educational and vocational centres" without any attempt to explain the true nature of these prisons. 

We focused on this particular documentary because it covers the Xinjiang re-education camps, one of the most egregious human rights abuses of our times.


Magnitsky sanctions

Safeguard Defenders has also filed two separate submissions recommending former head of CCTV Nie Chenxi, and CCTV journalist Dong Qian be considered for Magnitsky sanctioning, one for the United States and one for Canada.

The submissions present overwhelming evidence of Nie's command responsibility for a massive increase in the use of forced TV confessions after he assumed his post in April 2015, while Dong Qian has been pinpointed as the journalist who helped police extract and record confessions with four different victims, none of whom were arrested or had access to a lawyer at the time.


Prior complaints

Following Peter Humphrey's complaint in 2018 in the UK, Safeguard Defenders assisted Angela Gui, the daughter of Swedish publisher Gui Minhai file a complaint over her father's multiple forced confessions aired on CGTN. Ofcom accepted both of these complaints and is currently investigating them, with decisions expected soon.

Last month, we worked with Hongkonger and former UK Consulate worker Simon Cheng to file a complaint against CGTN for broadcasting his forced TV confession.  Ofcom are reviewing this complaint, and a decision on whether to investigate is also expected soon.

Ofcom has the choice to fine or remove the license to broadcast if it finds CGTN guilty of any violations of its codes.