Have you noticed the troubling way in which mainstream reportage on Tibet seems to resemble China’s propaganda on that subject? Can we expect anything else, given the degree of totalitarian control exerted upon foreign media operating in China? This parlous state-of-affairs may well be explained equally by the increasingly cosy relations between media organizations and China’s regime, a result of the economic and political allure that has the power to blind critical and ethical faculties. Media executives from CNN, Associated Press, Reuters, Al-Jazeera and the BBC are regularly invited to Beijing to enjoy the pleasures of plate and bottle by their charming hosts at Xinhua, China’s Ministry of Disinformation. There’s dark politics at play, fired by not inconsiderable commercial influences, which clearly benefits both China’s authoritarian elite and the press barons. There are other forces too which can explain the constant stream of media misrepresentation on Tibet, that is so accomodating towards China’s version of events in that tragic land. These can range from Editorial policy, drawn from a sympathy towards China, either its culture or political ideology, or a journalistic conformity and laziness by correspondents who follow the line. There is of course a very unjust and ethically worrying outcome to such factors, in that people are mislead on the harrowing reality within occupied Tibet and the facts are being obscured, distorted or ignored. By way of illustration let’s examine today’s article from the British newspaper, The Guardian based on an Associated Press report.
The headline to this piece ‘Two Tibetans Killed By Security Forces’ is an interesting choice following a recent critical exposé of the Guardian’s coverage on Tibet from @AnonymousTibet, who rightly asked why it is that this newspaper is willing to describe Syrian forces as killing and shelling protesters, yet does not apply similarly forceful descriptions when reporting China’s atrocities in Tibet. A valid question indeed and here the paper seems to have got the message. Or has it? Any hopes that this would lead onto to a more factual and independent report soon dissolve, as our eyes fall upon the usual litany of China’s propaganda.
So for the purposes of challenging such errant disinformation let’s break down the article in question and add some Editorial responses of our own. For ease of identification we have colored red the offending areas of reportage and offer our response in blue.
“Two Tibetan brothers who have been on the run since taking part in anti-government protests (Editorial: these demonstrations are not some disaffected reaction to China’s government, but a clear rejection of Chinese rule and a demand for Tibet’s independence and support for the Dalai Lama) two weeks ago have been shot dead in south-west China’s Sichuan province, (Editorial: actually what was a killing took place in Amdo Region of occupied Tibet) a US-funded broadcaster has reported.
Radio Free Asia said the men were shot and killed after being surrounded in Luhuo county on Thursday. The county was the site of anti-government protests (Editorial: These demonstrations demand Tibet’s independence from China, and are not a local grudge against the Chinese authorities) on 23 January. Radio Free Asia identified the two as Yeshe Rigsal, a 40-year-old monk, and his 38-year-old brother, Yeshe Samdrub, citing sources in the area and in the Tibetan exile community in India.
There has been a recent upsurge in violence in Tibetan areas. (Editorial: Whose ‘violence’? Notice how that term is left hanging there, leaving the suggestion that Tibetans are perpetrating such actions, when the truth is that China’s paramilitary have been shooting, torturing and arresting Tibetans.) The Chinese government blames criminals encouraged by outside forces, but activist Tibetan groups say repressive policies by China are the cause. (Editorial: The ’cause’ of what precisely, the so-called ‘violence’ that the Guardian chooses to report but not ascribe to those actually responsible: China’s military thugs!)
Luhuo and other Tibetan areas of Sichuan (Editorial: Tibetans do not live in (yet) reservations or zoos within China and its Provinces. The areas in question are in reality parts of occupied Tibet, in particular Amdo and Kham regions) have been cut off because of the violence (Editorial: Wrong! These have been placed under siege and sealed off to enable China’s paramilitary to enforce, without scrutiny, a brutal crackfown, not due to any so-called violence, again slyly implied as being caused by Tibetans) and it was impossible to independently confirm the Radio Free Asia report. Telephone calls to the Communist party propaganda department and the public security office in Luhuo rang unanswered, as did a call to the party propaganda department in Ganzi prefecture, which oversees the county.
Radio Free Asia also reported that another Tibetan had set himself on fire, the latest in a series of self-immolations that Tibetan activists groups say have been carried out to protest against government policies and to call for the return of the Dalai Lama (Editorial: This is factually flawed assertion, as the testimony and witnessed reports of such incidents has shown these acts are demanding Tibet’s freedom and independence along with support for the Dalai Lama) The Tibetans’ spiritual leader fled to India amid an abortive uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.
The radio station said the unidentified monk set himself on fire in the Yushu area of neighbouring Qinghai province, (Editorial: The region is the occupied Tibetan region of Amdo, with some part of Kham) which was the scene of protests on Wednesday. It was not known whether he survived. If confirmed, the incident would bring to at least 18 the number of monks, nuns and lay Tibetans who have set themselves on fire over the last year, mostly in traditionally Tibetan areas of Sichuan province.(Editorial: As if this propaganda term had not been used enough the correspondent repeats the deception, truth is that there are no ‘Tibetan areas’ what exists is an illegally and violently occupied Tibet) ” Ends.
To anyone lacking an informed understanding of Tibet, its history and nature, or objectives, of Tibetan political protest, such articles have a corrosive ability to misinform, implanting China’s cynical distortions and propaganda, while callously misrepresenting the truth. Clearly foreign correspondents in China are upon a very tight leash indeed and unable to move without the knowledge and permission of China’s Ministry of Information. They have become reliant upon official Chinese sources, as reflected daily in the news content of reports on Tibet. As the brave Tibetan people face China’s jack-booted storm-troopers to demand their national freedom, in the comfortable newsrooms of Radio Free Asia, the Guardian and Associated Press (and mainstream media in general) the facts of their history, territorial status, struggle and aspirations, are being censored and twisted, by a journalism that has abandoned factuality, independence and critique in favor of appeasing China’s regime.