Chinese state broadcasting company CGTN has opened its European hub at Chiswick Business Park. The broadcaster is now listed on Chiswick Park’s website in the list of ‘Who you’ll find at Chiswick Park’ and is reportedly occupying 30,000 square feet in Building 7. They have been recruiting journalists, news anchors, presenters and producers as well as technical staff since early summer. Job adverts state that the digital and television hub will be producing “news, online, and other content to feed into our global English language platforms.”
The move is highly controversial as the broadcaster is the mouthpiece of the ruling Communist party and is accused of recording forced confessions for the government. British fraud investigator and former Reuters journalist Peter Humphrey has filed an Ofcom complaint seeking to revoke the Chinese broadcaster’s UK license for their complicity in human rights crimes.
Mr Humphrey and his Chinese wife Yu Yingzeng were hired by pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline and while working for them were detained and charged with “illegally acquiring personal information” of Chinese nationals. In his Ofcom complaint he documents how he was forced to make confessions which were recorded by and broadcast on state television in August 2013 and again in July 2014 ‘under conditions tantamount to torture.’ He says ‘Neither of these instances qualify as journalism or true media activity. CCTV was working in active collusion with the police and the Chinese state’. In the first instance the interviewer was a police inspector, in the second it was a CCTV interviewer. He says the interviews prejudiced his ‘sham’ trial.
Mr Humphrey’s complaint to Ofcom has been backed by journalists working for BBC World TV who say “This NUJ Chapel condemns moves to deepen control by the Chinese Communist Party of news and information and the online surveillance of its citizens. We also condemn how forced televised confessions, filmed and broadcast by CCTV, are now commonplace in China”.
Mr Humphrey points out that Ofcom has a duty under section 319 of the Communications Act 2003 to set standards for the content of programmes in television and radio services. Citing the sections which explicitly ban abusive or derogatory treatment of individuals and require that News must be reported with due accuracy and presented with due impartiality and broadcasters must avoid unjust or unfair treatment of individuals, he reminds the regulatory body that they are required to act in a way compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.
Televised forced confessions are conducted systematically in China by the state broadcaster and broadcast before trial, according to the human rights organization Safeguard Defenders, detailed in their report ‘Scripted and Staged’.