UK citizen Peter Humphrey, who was detained in China in 2013 and forced to confess to alleged crimes on Chinese state television, filed a complaint on Friday with the British broadcasting regulator, Ofcom (Office of Communications), in which he urged Ofcom to revoke the license of the Chinese state-owned CCTV-CGTN, which aired his forced confessions to the United Kingdom.
"A media organization that exhibits prisoners like circus animals and broadcasts their confessions dictated by the state does not do journalism, but propaganda, and cannot in any case claim the freedom of the press as an excuse, said Cédric Alviani, RSF's East Asia office director. "It is necessary for democracies to protect themselves against the threat posed by biased information spread by authoritarian regimes like China."
Humphrey, a former journalist, believes CCTV-CGTN violated some twenty provisions of the British Broadcasting Code, which requires impartiality and prohibits pressuring people in distress. The complaint comes as the CCTV-CGTN group is expanding its presence around the world and plans to open its largest international office in London next month, with nearly 300 announced hires.
According to the NGO Safeguard Defenders, Chinese state media have broadcast at least 48 forced confessions since 2013, including that of citizen journalist Chen Jieren in August 2018, Swedish publisher Gui Minhai in January 2016, and former correspondent for Deutsche Welle Gao Yu in May 2014.
China is one of the world’s worst countries for media freedom. It holds more than 60 professional and non-professional journalists behind bars. In the 2018 World Press Freedom Index published by RSF, the country ranks 176 out of 180. The United Kingdom ranks 40.