War in Ukraine: Beware of China’s amplification of Russian propaganda, RSF says
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) denounces the Chinese state media’s amplification of Russian disinformation about the invasion of Ukraine and calls on the public to inform themselves through fact-based reports by trustworthy independent media sources only.
Since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24th February 2022, China has gone to great lengths to appear neutral, but at the same time its state media have widely adopted the Kremlin’s propaganda narrative by reproducing deceptive wording such as “special military operation” and “Ukraine crisis” to describe the invasion, and by implying that the United States and NATO are actually responsible for the war.
“The Russian disinformation about Ukraine has already reached intolerable heights and the last thing the world needs is the amplification of these lies through China’s propaganda machine,” says RSF East Asia Bureau head Cédric Alviani, who urges the public to “disregard reports by media outlets controlled by authoritarian regimes” and to inform themselves “through fact-based reports issued by trusted independent media sources only”.
“US biological weapons”
Since 7th March, China’s state broadcaster CCTV and official newspapers The People’s Daily and Global Times have propagated the Russian government’s claims about the United States funding and developing biological weapons in Ukraine.
At the end of February, a fake report claiming that Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky had fled the capital Kyiv, shared by CCTV, was viewed 510 million times on the Chinese platform Weibo and reproduced by 163 media outlets throughout the country.
“Staged massacre” and “neo-nazis”
On at least two occasions between 4th April and 6th April, CCTV and Global Times also amplified unsubstantiated claims that Ukrainians staged the Bucha massacre, despite satellite evidence of the killing of at least 400 civilians by Russian troops.
In early March, the social media accounts of China’s international state broadcaster CGTN repeated Russian President Vladimir Putin’s unsubstantiated accusation that “Ukrainian “‘neo-nazis” opened fire on Chinese students”.
Since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine, almost 2,000 civilians and seven journalists have been killed in the country and a further 11 journalists have been injured under gunfire. On 11th March, RSF opened a Press Freedom Centre in the city of Lviv that provides operational assistance to journalists reporting on the invasion.
China, ranked 177th out of 180 in the RSF World Press Freedom Index, is the world's largest captor of journalists with at least 124 detained.