China launches campaign against ‘fake news’ amid flooding with BBC – Radio Free Asia

The ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has launched a campaign against “fake news” that will primarily target online content and will likely spread to Hong Kong.

The move comes as Beijing accused the BBC of “fake news” in its reporting of flooding in central Henan province, following death threats against the broadcaster’s correspondents launched by the Henan branch of the League of Nations. the youth of the CCP.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian called the company a “cranky broadcasting company” that “attacked and vilified China, seriously deviating from journalistic standards” and produced “bogus. information “.

Zhao said the BBC deserved to be “unpopular” with the Chinese public.

The BBC and other foreign journalists were then targeted by state journalists and other nationalists while on assignment in Henan, according to the Paris-based press freedom group Reporters Without Borders (RSF ).

The ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Youth Division published online death threats against foreign journalists covering the flooding in central China’s Henan Province, triggering a wave of physical, verbal and public harassment. line against them, “RSF said in a statement. its website.

“China, one of the world’s worst press freedom abusers, has no journalism lesson to teach the BBC, and is showing scandalous hypocrisy by accusing it of broadcasting fake news “While itself the world’s leading exporter of propaganda content,” Cédric Alviani, director of RSF’s East Asia office, said in the statement.

He said that while Chinese state media like Xinhua, CGTN, and Radio China International are legally bound to relay CCP propaganda, the British public broadcaster practiced “factual journalism” and enjoyed editorial freedom.

On July 27, the BBC called for “immediate action by the Chinese government to stop attacks on journalists following reports of flooding in Henan province.”

The dispute arose as the CCP’s central propaganda department launched a nationwide political campaign against the “fake news.”

“The main targets are illegal information-gathering activities by news organizations and their staff, as well as online social media platforms and public accounts,” said the General Administration of Press and Publications. (GAPP) in a press release posted on its website.

He said a recent high-level meeting ordered departments to “strike hard” and start the battle against “fake news”.

“A sensitive period”

Chinese political scientist Chen Daoyin said the move was likely not only a reaction to online public criticism of authorities’ handling of the Zhengzhou flood disaster, but also a way to set the stage for the 20th Congress. of the Party in 2022.

“The Politburo believes that the current situation in China and abroad is complex and difficult, and that the national economic recovery is still unstable and unbalanced,” Chen told RFA.

“We are now in a sensitive period as the 20th Party Congress approaches, when it becomes necessary to strengthen controls on public speaking, eliminate unwanted voices and ensure that only one voice can be heard. heard – that of the party, “he said.

He said that the fact that Hong Kong officials are also considering passing a law banning “fake news” is important because Beijing likely wants to prevent dissenting voices from being heard in China through Hong Kong.

“Hong Kong has always been a channel between the mainland and the outside world, especially in the field of information and public opinion,” Chen said. “They are preparing to strike.

He said he expects top social media accounts and bloggers talking about current affairs and current affairs, as well as cultural products dealing with history, culture and religion , are the key targets of the campaign.

Protect the image of managers

Joseph Cheng, a former professor of politics at Hong Kong City University, said the campaign would seek help from at least 10 departments and ministries.

“The target of the campaign will be the kind of gossip that affects the image of management,” Cheng said. “This is the kind of content that is picked up in Hong Kong, then by the international media, and that has an impact on public opinion.”

“Hong Kong has become an important channel for the export of this kind of gossip, and the Hong Kong government is also legislating against fake news,” Cheng said. “In particular, this crackdown will target online news.”

Cheng said a vivid example was the sale of books with juicy content on Chinese rulers, once sold by Causeway Bay Bookstore and now closed following cross-border detentions of five of its booksellers in 2015.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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