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07 Feb 2023

Complaint against Chinese State TV filed in France

On 26 January 2023, Safeguard Defenders submitted a new formal complaint to the French regulator - Autorité publique française de régulation de la communication audiovisuelle et numérique (ARCOM) – regarding CCTV1’s broadcast of forced televised confessions across the European Union through French Satellite operator Eutelsat.

The complaint (translated from submission in French):

China Central Television (CCTV) channels – owned by the Chinese State but controlled by the Communist Party of China - are broadcasted in France and across Europe by Eutelsat. Eutelsat broadcasts CCTV-1, CGTN, and other CCTV channels.

On January 7, 8, 9 and 10, 2023, CCTV-1 broadcasted a four-part “documentary” series of 50 minutes each. Taken together, these broadcasts  << 吹冲 >> contained about 26 forced confessions.

At the time of airing, many of the persons forced to confess on camera had not been tried by a court nor been condemned. Many of them have been placed into lengthy incommunicado detention at undisclosed locations, without access to a lawyer. United Nations human rights bodies have defined these circumstances as “enforced disappearances”.

As dozens of victims of similar forced televised confessions have testified over the course of the years, these confessions are obtained through threats, torture and fear. They are the exact opposite of freedom of expression. The police regularly writes the confession scenario and directs the confessor’s “performance”. The confessor is usually cleaned up before their on-camera appearance and obliged to memorize the script. According to these testimonies, CCTV actively cooperates with the Chinese authorities in the recording and production of these videos.

Read More: See this article for more details on these broadcasts.

Beyond the evident violation of the prohibition of torture and enforced disappearances, China’s forced televised confessions violate the right to a fair trial, the presumption of innocence, the right to remain silent and the right not to indict oneself.

Eutelsat is directly responsible for permitting CCTV to air these confessions in France and throughout Europe. Broadcasts that gravely violate the European Convention on Human Rights and ARCOM’s ethical standards for information and broadcasts, including: respect for human dignity, truthfulness and independence of information, treatment of judicial affairs and respect for privacy.  

For more detailed information on the broadcasts in question and its victims, as well as on the general context of China’s forced televised confessions, see this recent article.

The four broadcasts in question are:

Additional background: in early 2021, CGTN lost its pan-European broadcasting license held under the British regulator Ofcom’s control because of the demonstrated editorial control over the channel by the Communist Party of China, which directly contravenes the UK’s regulations. Additionally, Ofcom sanctioned CGTN with close to 500.000 € in fees for its repeated broadcasting of « forced televised confessions », in violation of fundamental rights stipulated by the European Convention on Human Rights. Immediately following its loss of license in the UK, the channels passed under the technical auspices of the French regulator ARCOM (former CSA) because of its airing through French satellite company Eutelsat, allowing it to continue broadcasting across Europe.