26 Aug 2021

CGTN sanctioned on multiple counts for airing forced confessions

UK TV regulator Ofcom today announced, in two separate decisions, further sanctions on CGTN for three counts of broadcast violations, concerning two victims, Swede Gui Minhai, and former Hong Kong resident Simon Cheng. 

Ofcom earlier ruled, as Safeguard Defenders reported on, that CGTN had breached UK broadcasting law, calling the violations ‘severe’, when airing two forced televised confessions with Swedish bookseller Gui Minhai, who was abducted from his summer home in Thailand in late 2015. The broadcasts occurred in 2016 and 2018 respectively. It had likewise ruled that another forced televised confession, of Simon Cheng, which occurred in late 2019, was likewise a ‘severe’ violation.

Ofcom today announced that CGTN is fined 100,000 British Pounds for each, for a total of 200,000 Pounds. The sanctions decision concerning the broadcasts related to Gui Minhai is available here, while the sanctions decision concerning Simon Cheng is available here.  

CGTN has previously been fined 225,000 Pounds for airing two such confessions with British citizen Peter Humphrey – one of which also included his American wife, Yu Yingzheng - as well as five broadcasts related to the Hong Kong protests that were deemed biased. It brings the total amount CGTN has been fined to 450,000 Pounds, or about 630,000 USD, all within less than half a year.

For CGTN these fines follow having already had their license to air in the UK revoked following an investigation based on a report submitted by Safeguard Defenders that proved that CGTN, since China’s major media reorganization in March 2018, is directly controlled a political party, which is not allowed under UK law.

Since these complaints were filed, a comprehensive review of CGTN and CCTV’s practice of airing forced televised confessions, always before trial, has also been submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council, and a larger group of victims came together calling for individual TV platforms and providers to, based on corporate social responsibility, stop airing – and stop being complicit in – these systematic human rights violations. TV providers in Sweden, Norway, and Australia have taken CGTN and CCTV off the air.

Since CGTN lost its license, it has since gained authorization to air in France, via French TV regulator CSA, but is already under investigation following complaints lodged in France. Investigations are also ongoing, following complaints filed, in Canada and the United States.

Check back soon for more details.