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Media ethics breached with televised confession on state-owned TV

March 5, 2016

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the continued airing of 'confessions' by state-owned media in China. The IFJ calls on the government to immediately end the practice that violates media ethics.

On February 25, Wenzhou Television, a state-owned media outlet, aired a ‘confession’ from Christian human rights lawyer, Zhang Kai, who had been detained since August 25, 2015. In the confession, Zhang said that he had violated Chinese laws including disrupting social order and endangering China’s national security. Zhang was detained in 2015 on accusations of provoking social order and illegally obtaining state secrets for foreign organisations, he was also accused of providing legal support and being a mastermind behind a number of ‘illegal religious gatherings’ in Wenzhou.

Since 2014, the Wenzhou government has started cracking down on religious institutions, including the demolition of a number of churches. Since 2014 over 20 churches have been demolished and more than 1,300 cross iconography objects have been removed from churches. Most concerning over 60 church members have been put under administrative detention or criminally prosecuted.

The IFJ Asia Pacific Office said “Mainland media outlets continue to broadcast televised ‘confessions’, which continue to breach media ethics rule 3, as outlined by the All China Journalists Association. According to rule 3, all news reports should be accurate, comprehensive and fair.”

The nature of forced, televised confessions is an issue of increasing concern to the IFJ. We urge the United Nations Human Rights Council to arrange a special rapporteur to visit China to investigate the situation of freedom of expression and the press.

In January 2016, the IFJ released China's Great Media Wall: The Fight For Freedom which documents the struggles for press freedom and freedom of expression in China in 2015. The report also highlights the increasing use of televised confessions by the government, which is fostering a culture of fear and intimidation for media workers.

For more information contact:
International Federation of Journalists
Phone: +61 2 9333 0946

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