The Special Broadcasting Service (SBS), a hybrid-funded Australian public service broadcaster, has said it is going to stop its regular broadcasts of China Central Television (CTTV). This development took place after a human rights group pointed out that the broadcaster was airing possibly forced confessions. SBS has taken note of the allegation and stated that the channel will be put on hold until a review is completed.
The human rights group, Safeguard Defenders, said almost 50 such forced confessions were aired over a span of seven years. The same group previously lobbied the UK-based television regulator to stop airing the state television channel. The group is headed by Peter Dahlin, a Swedish human rights activist.
Safeguard Defenders alleged that by showing forced confessions, SBS breached its own code of conduct. The prisoners were arbitrarily detained and many of them did not receive legal counseling.
SBS had been showing CCTV for years. Interestingly, one of these forced confessions was one made by Dahlin himself. in 2016, he ran an NGO in Beijing to aid Chinese citizens and human rights lawyers. He was jailed in a state security detention center and only after his confession was aired on CCTV was he freed. Mr. Dahlin shared details of the forced confession.
He said that he was given a set of questions and answers. It was nothing but a cleverly camouflaged PR campaign for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The other people who have been made to confess included Uyghur scholars, prominent activists, a British businessman, and human rights lawyers.
While the UK laws are stringent on broadcasting foreign content that led to the channel’s cancelation there, the same conditions do not apply in Australia. In 2003, Vietnamese Australians lashed out at SBS for broadcasting communist propaganda. The entity continued to broadcast the program, though it displayed a disclaimer.
Banning Australian media
Beijing restricted the airing of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) digital platforms in 2018. The cyberspace administration of the Chinese government also banned the ABC website and its app.
The ABC service ban followed the Australian government’s ban of the Chinese tech behemoth Huawei from setting up its 5G network in Australia. The U.S. government also banned Huawei from entering its market. The CCP is known for its aggressive stance on accessing Western media content and has blocked many popular social media apps and web services.
Experts believe that the action taken by SBS will not impact the airing of such staged confessions in China. Also, Mandarin speakers in Australia also access news using social media services like WeChat and do not rely on television for much of their news. However, many in the Chinese community also believe it to be CCP propaganda.