Keep out fake news in age of COVID-19, Chinese propaganda chief urges world media

William Zheng, South China Morning Post

Posted at Nov 24 2021 01:10 PM | Updated as of Nov 24 2021 01:14 PM

The world’s media must work hard to keep fake news and misinformation at bay as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to ravage the world, a top Chinese Communist Party leader in charge of propaganda said.

“Objective and factual reporting” has become all the more important as the world battles to defeat rampant “rumours and prejudice” during the pandemic, Huang Kunming, a Politburo member and head of the party’s Propaganda Department, told the Fourth World Media Summit in Beijing on Monday.

Media should stick to “science and rational judgment” in their reporting and become “responsible disseminators of public information”, Huang urged the gathered news executives.

“[We should] promote integrity and credibility, sincerity and mutual trust, seek common ground while respecting our differences … and focus on improving the well-being of people of all countries.”

Huang made no mention of the bitter tit-for-tat accusations between China and Western countries over the origin of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19. Several charges and countercharges have flown to and fro since the disease was first reported in Wuhan in central China about two years ago.

Executives from more than 260 media organisations including Reuters, Associated Press, Kyodo, Tass and Agence France-Presse attended the media summit, which was organised by Xinhua.

The Chinese state-run news agency said the summit ended with a joint statement calling on world media to “evolve with the times” and use new technologies to drive “transformation and development”.

Analysts, however, said Beijing’s charm offensive on media executives would have limited effect.
“The conflict of values and interests between China and Western countries cannot be reversed by hosting publicity events, [when] public opinion towards China in Western European countries and America have become negative,” said Xiaoyu Pu, associate professor of political science professor at the University of Nevada, Reno.

“While this is an external propaganda event, it also serves internal propaganda purposes.

“It will certainly make the local population elated. But I am afraid that it will not fundamentally change international public opinion.”

Chen Daoyin, a political commentator and former professor at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said it would be very difficult for China to gain the upper hand in wrestling with the world media in the short term.

“China now faces pressure from Western countries on all fronts, especially in the publicity area, but it is difficult for its top-down and cumbersome propaganda machinery to cope with it, not to mention mounting a counter strike,” Chen said.

“But China is spending money and devoting resources to events like this, because it has to start somewhere.”


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