13 Apr 2021

Victims of CGTN's televised confessions call on action from TV providers globally

Over the past weeks, over a dozen victims of Forced Televised Confessions by Chinese Communist Party-controlled channels CGTN and CCTV-4 have written a direct appeal to TV providers in various jurisdictions to ask them to review and consider their silent complicity in airing these channels to their respective audiences. These broadcasts aim to silence entire communities, who are working to secure the most basic of rights - rights that are taken for granted in the countries of these TV providers - and by airing these tools of political terror, said providers are directly assisting the Chinese police in silencing China's civil society.

“Most victims are rights lawyers, NGO workers and journalists, who stand up for the rule of law and human rights. As punishment, we have been placed in solitary confinement, held incommunicado and been subjected to physical and mental torture. All this to ensure that when the camera faced us, we had no choice but to repeat the lines given to us by the Chinese police. Our footage is used to spread fake news and fear among the rights communities we belong to.”

In recounting the torture and threats suffered at the hands of the Chinese regime, often with the active collaboration of CGTN and CCTV’s crew, with the sole scope of spreading fake news and instil fear in the hearts of the Chinese human rights community standing up for the rule of law and the democratic values the addressed networks hold dear, the victims denounce how the burden lies heavy on their shoulders as too many are still in the grasp of severe repression.

“When torture did not work, threats to loved ones were used to extract filmed confessions. One of us was shown a video of her teenage son being beaten up by police to force her to comply.”

While TV regulators around the world have started to take incisive action or opened investigations into the practices formally denounced by Safeguard Defenders, the signatories of the open letter believe networks themselves have a direct responsibility in choosing to curb these human rights violations by prohibiting China’s media from airing until it promises to stop broadcasting forced confessions. They therefore invite them to discontinue the airing of CGTN and CCTV-4 on the understanding that allowing such offensive broadcasts to be aired is to facilitate grave human rights violations.

The open letter has been sent out to providers in France (Eutelsat), Germany (Vodafone), Norway (Telia), Canada (Rogers), Australia (FoxTel and FetchTV - SBS already suspended its service of CGTN and CCTV-4 pending investigation following an earlier complaint by Safeguard Defenders), Italy (TivùSat), Switzerland (UPC), New Zealand (Sky, Vodafone), the United States (Dish, DirecTV, Verizon FiOS, Comcast) and India (Dish TV). More letters will be sent out over the coming days.

The letter appeals directly to providers to review their silent complicity in these grave human rights violations by continuing to air the channels.

As direct victims of this practice, we appeal to you to carefully examine the information provided below, and to consider whether TV providers in democratic societies should continue to be morally complicit in airing such intentionally distorted information obtained through torture, threats and deprivation.”

Moreover, Safeguard Defenders also appealed to the European Commission and the European Regulators Group for Audiovisual Media Services given the over-arching European regulatory framework binding national providers and regulators in promoting the freedom of expression and opinion through reciprocal recognition of rights for broadcasting channels, a principle abused by CGTN to continue airing a practice that is the exact opposite of said freedom of expression and opinion.

The open letter has also been addressed to providers in the United Kingdom (Sky, Freesat and Virgin Media), asking them to refrain from (re)broadcasting CGTN following the establishment of a de facto European-wide license in France, which would technically allow them to broadcast said channel under the European Convention on Transfrontier Television notwithstanding the formal revocation of license by UK regulator Ofcom last February 10.

Telia Norway announced its immediate suspension of broadcasts upon receiving the open letter. Telia Sweden took CGTN and CCTV-4 off the air earlier after public complaints in local media about their airing these channels by two Swedish victims of forced TV confessions.

Already last month, in response to a documented complaint by Safeguard Defenders forced televised confessions, Australia’s public broadcaster SBS suspended airing of CGTN and CCTV-4 pending an investigation. In the UK, the TV regulator has imposed significant fines on CGTN for the confession broadcasts and for related invasions of privacy. TV regulator CSA in France has issued a warning, while regulators in Canada and the US are currently investigating the TV channels.

Two additional formal complaints were filed on April 5th by Safeguard Defenders (on behalf of Mr. Abdurehim Mamutjan and Mr. Adrian Zenz) against CGTN at the French regulator CSA and US regulator FCC, for severe distortion of facts and outright lies, including through the forced statements of a ten-year-old child.

We ask you to consider whether anyone should be assisting the Chinese police in crushing the attempts to secure basic human rights in China. Allowing China’s Party-state media to broadcast these confessions is essentially tantamount to assisting the police of a one-party State destroy the small part of Chinese society that is fighting for rights so basic that everyone in your country takes them for granted every day.


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