Xinhua News Agency

Western reports on riots labelled biased

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 March, 2008, 12:00am

State media latches onto factual errors in attempt to discredit foreign news groups

State media has accused foreign journalists of factual blunders in their reports of the Tibet rioting, setting off public condemnation over 'biased reports' in western media.

The rising hostility has been underscored by hate messages received by some news organisations in recent days.

The Foreign Correspondents' Club of China issued an alert on Sunday night urging member news organisations and reporters 'to remain vigilant about public perception of foreign media'.

Jocelyn Ford, chairwoman of the club's media freedom committee, said at least one media organisation had received hate messages via telephone and fax. She refused to disclose the name of the outlet.

Ms Ford said one message sent in English was 'Get out of here'.

Major mainland news organisations, including Xinhua, China Central Television and the English-language China Daily, have been running reports detailing what they say are factual errors in online reports by prominent western media outlets, including the BBC, CNN, Fox News and The Washington Post.

Going into great detail, the mainland reports use elaborate charts to demonstrate how the BBC mismatched an online photo of an ambulance with a caption describing it as a police vehicle involved in the crackdown on rioters in Lhasa .

The Washington Post was accused by China Daily of mismatching an online photo showing Nepali police clashing with Tibetan protesters in Kathmandu with a caption claiming they were Chinese police in Lhasa.

In the latest efforts to discredit overseas media reports, Xinhua said yesterday private German broadcaster RTL TV had apologised over a mix-up on its website mismatching a March 17 photo of clashes between police in Nepal with a caption saying Chinese police were cracking down on Tibetans in Lhasa.

'By accident, we gave the impression that the scenes show an incident in Tibet involving Chinese security forces. We regret this mistake,' a statement on website said.

But the German TV network maintained that it reported the rioting 'independently'.

The BBC's Beijing office also admitted a mix-up but said it had not received any threatening messages.

The mainland media campaign against western media has swayed public opinion, with some people questioning the ethics of overseas news organisations and others voicing outright condemnation.

Zhan Jiang , a professor from the Beijing-based China Youth University for Political Sciences, said the errors were appallingly amateurish but the public should not rush to conclude that reports in western media were biased.

Professor Zhan said the criticism was apparently driven by an official agenda, 'but people should bear in mind that it's not easy to report on Tibet as most of us know little about what exactly is going on and because of the complexity of the Tibet issues at large'.

He said that such factual inaccuracies were forgivable considering the tight control of information flow from the region.

'If the government has faith in what they are doing in Tibet, they should demonstrate greater openness and transparency,' he said.

Professor Zhan said western media outlets were hardly welcome in third world countries as they tended to focus on problems and pursue negative news.

'They should be allowed to do their jobs freely as long as they don't adopt a double standard,' he said.