Chinese-Government Propaganda Organizations Given Half the Questions at White House Press Conference

By Fred Lucas | January 20, 2011 | 12:45pm EST

President Barack Obama gestures during his joint news conference with China's President Hu Jintao, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2011, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

( - Chinese-government-controlled propaganda organizations were given equal standing to U.S. media, and half the questions, at Wednesday’s White House news conference featuring President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Only two U.S. journalists and two representatives from Chinese-government-owned organizations were allowed to ask questions at the news conference. One of the U.S. journalists was from the Associated Press and the other was from Bloomberg News. Both U.S. journalists asked questions about human rights.

The two Chinese organizations allowed to ask questions at the news conference were China Central Television (CCTV) and Xinhua News Service, both of which were specifically identified in the U.S. State Department’s 2009 Human Rights Report, the most recent report, as government controlled entities.

“China Central Television is the national television station of the People's Republic of China,” CCTV says on its own website.

The State Department human rights report says the communist Chinese government has “continued to control print, broadcast, and electronic media tightly and used them to propagate government views and CCP ideology. During the year the government increased censorship and manipulation of the press and the Internet during sensitive anniversaries.”

“Media outlets received regular guidance from the Central Propaganda Department (CPC), which listed topics that should not be covered, including politically sensitive topics,” said the State Department report. “After events such as the July riots or the Sichuan earthquake, media outlets were told to cover the stories using content carried by government-controlled Xinhua and China Central Television. In the period preceding the October celebration of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the PRC, authorities mandated that newspapers, magazines, and other news outlets minimize the reporting of negative stories.

“The General Administration of Press and Publication; the State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television, and the CPC remained active in issuing restrictive regulations and decisions constraining the content of broadcast media,” the State Department report continued.

The report went on to talk about dissidents in the country.

“The CPC continued to list subjects that were off limits to the domestic media, and the government maintained authority to approve all programming,” the State Department report said. “Nearly all print media, broadcast media, and book publishers were owned by, or affiliated with, the CCP or a government agency. There were a small number of privately owned print publications but no privately owned television or radio stations.”

In the past, when foreign heads of state have held joint news conferences with President Obama--such as British Prime Minister David Cameron and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev--two questions have been allowed to the U.S. media and two questions to foreign media. However, both Great Britain and Russia have news organizations that are independent of the government.

The State Department report on human rights in China also indicated that China’s Communist government imposes restrictions on foreign news organization trying to gather information in China. In 2009, the Chinese government even arrested reporters from the New York Times.

“In February two New York Times reporters were detained for 20 hours after police stopped their car in a Tibetan area of Gansu Province,” the report says. “Authorities made the two spend the night in Lanzhou, the provincial capital, and eventually forced them to return to Beijing.”

“In May a Financial Times correspondent reporting in Mianzhu on families who lost children during the Sichuan earthquake was followed to an interview and attacked by unknown assailants who tried to take his camera,” the State Department report said. “When police arrived, they also tried to take his video camera by force. Also in May on three separate occasions, foreign reporters were attacked while filming in Sichuan.”

Nor has the Chinese government treated U.S.-government-controlled media organizations kindly. “In April reporters with the Voice of America (VOA) were detained for two hours in Sichuan Province before being told that they could not proceed farther,” the State Department report said. “Local authorities first told them that it was illegal for tourists to visit the area and later told them they could not proceed because of ‘hazardous road conditions.’”

The Chinese state-controlled media thoroughly covered Hu’s visit to the United States, but ignored the talk of human rights, Agence Free Press reported.

“China Central Television’s nightly news broadcast, often seen as the nation’s most widely viewed programme (sic), devoted nearly its entire 30 minute show Thursday to Hu’s meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama,” the AFP reported. “China’s state-controlled media widely covered the visit, reflecting the country’s rise as a major global economic and political power, while bolstering the image of Hu – who also least the ruling Communist Party – as the leading world statesman. …. But Hu’s acknowledgement that China’s human rights situation required attention was ignored by CCTV’s nightly news broadcast and many other domestic news outlets, including the leading Xinhua news agency.”

The softball questions that China’s government-controlled propaganda organizations asked China’s Communist president at the White House press conference can be seen on the official transcript of the event published by the Obama White House. The White House transcript, however, does not identify the reporter from the Xinhua News Service, who asked the last question in the press conference.

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