On 9 May, the United Kingdom’s Office of Communications (Ofcom) announced that they are investigating China Global Television Network’s (CGTN) possible violation of broadcasting regulations. The Chinese state channel is being accused of airing forced confessions, a serious human rights infringement that may breach some 20 provisions of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code. The regulatory body was urged to revoke CGTN’s licence by former British journalist and private investigator Peter Humphrey, 62, who was detained in China in 2013 and forced to confess to alleged crimes on air in 2014.
“This legal action shows that democracies have the capacity to defend their principles against propaganda without using censorship”, said Cédric Alviani, head of Reporters Without Borders' (RSF's) East Asia bureau, adding that “freedom of the press cannot be used as an excuse to trample human rights”.
In March, RSF published a report titled China's Pursuit of a New World Media Order, which investigates Beijing's strategy to control information beyond its borders, threatening press freedom on a global scale. In the report, RSF recommends that media outlets, publishers and social media platforms should refuse to diffuse propaganda or content which obviously violates human rights.
According to the NGO Safeguard Defenders, Chinese state media have broadcast at least 48 forced confessions since 2013, including that of former Deutsche Welle correspondent Gao Yu in 2014, Swedish publisher Gui Minhai in 2016 and citizen journalist Chen Jieren in 2018.
China is ranked 177th out of 180 countries in the 2019 RSF World Press Freedom Index.