The campaign is designed to drown out critics who blame Beijing for the spread of the virus on the grounds that its censorship of early warnings delayed adoption of the necessary public health measures.
Chinese officials have gone so far as to suggest that it might have been the US army that “brought the epidemic to Wuhan” or that the coronavirus might have been “circulating in parts of Italy before doctors were aware of the outbreak in China.”
The utmost vigilance is needed because the Chinese regime has been developing its international propaganda apparatus for years, as RSF explained in a report entitled “China’s Pursuit of a New World Media Order,” published in March 2019.
“On the pretext of ‘setting the record straight’ about the coronavirus, Beijing is pumping out lies and imprecisions designed to discredit journalists’ work and sow doubt about what they are reporting,” said Cédric Alviani, the head of RSF’s East Asia bureau. “It is important that the public is not taken in by the Chinese propaganda and gives preference to reporting by media outlets that respect journalistic principles.”
China’s ambassador to France, Lu Shaye, was summoned by the French foreign ministry on 14 April because of posts on the embassy website and Twitter account defaming French healthcare personnel and a French parliamentary coalition.
On 13 March, the US State Department summoned the Chinese ambassador in Washington to ask why two Chinese foreign ministry officials, Zhao Linjian and Hua Chunying, were suggesting that the coronavirus had originated in the United States.
At the end of March, the Chinese Communist Party-controlled international broadcaster, China Global Television Network, distorted statements made by the head of an Italian pharmacological research institute, Giuseppe Remuzzi, implying that he was saying that the coronavirus epidemic had begun in Italy a month before its appearance in China.
At the same time, China’s ambassadors and the propaganda newspaper Global Times have been waging a crusade against western journalists, accusing them of “lying” systematically in order to blame China for the pandemic.
China is ranked 177th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.