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China's media influence campaign poses threat to press freedom: RSF

2019/03/25 17:37:31

Cedric Alviani (left), director of RSF's East Asia (Taipei) bureau / CNA file photo

Taipei, March 25 (CNA) A report released on Monday by the global press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) warned the world of Beijing's ongoing campaign to influence media and control information beyond its borders, thus posing a threat to press freedom throughout the world.

Titled "China's Pursuit of a New World Media Order," the RSF report investigates Beijing's strategy, namely modernizing its international TV broadcasting, buying extensive amounts of advertising in international media, and infiltrating foreign media.

According to Cedric Alviani, the director of RSF's East Asia (Taipei) bureau, the Chinese campaign got its start after the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008, when the Chinese regime found that international media tended to hold an unfriendly view of the country's autocratic regime.

Over the years, China has bought stakes in many international media outlets, including Chinese-language media, to try to increase its influence on the world stage and shape public opinion in ways that are more favorable to China.

A large part of China's media acquisitions have gone unnoticed, however, those efforts have paid off, Alviani said.

According to the report, China's state-owned CGTN currently broadcasts TV programs in 140 countries and China Radio International broadcasts in 65 languages.

Beijing has also managed to convince tens of thousands of journalists in emerging countries to go on all-expense-paid trips to Beijing to "train their critical mind" in exchange for favorable press coverage, he said, citing the report.

Beijing is also exporting its censorship and surveillance tools, including the Baidu search engine and WeChat instant messaging platform, and encouraging authoritarian states to copy its repressive regulations, a particularly effective strategy in Southeast Asia, he noted.

Meanwhile, China has also made use of its control of media to carry out disinformation worldwide with Taiwan as its major target, he said, citing the suicide death of a Taiwanese diplomat last year as an example.

Alviani was referring to the Sept. 14 suicide of the late head of Taiwan's office in the Osaka area, Su Chii-cherng (蘇啟誠).

Taiwan's government has attributed Su's suicide to his consternation over an internet rumor alleging that Taiwanese nationals were left stranded at flooded Kansai International Airport after Typhoon Jebi while the Chinese embassy there sent 15 tour buses to evacuate China citizens.

The rumor reflected poorly on Taiwan's efforts there, but it was later made clear that no vehicles other than airport shuttle buses were allowed to depart from Kansai airport while it was flooded.

Alviani said with the release of the report, the RSF hopes to raise global awareness over the issue, attract more attention to the phenomenon from democracies around the globe and jointly develop a way of combating Beijing's campaign.

(By Joseph Yeh)
Enditem/AW