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How Western Media Coverage of Tibet Was Manipulated

October 8, 2010

Reporting of the massacre in 2008 was turned to
the advantage of the Chinese regime
By Sun Yanjun
Epoch Times
Oct 5, 2010

On March 25, 2008, Xinhua, the state-run
mouthpiece of the Chinese regime, reported that
Western media had misrepresented the events of
March 14. Using photos of newspapers or screen
grabs from TV broadcasts or websites, Xinhua
showed how a photo had been improperly cropped,
or how photos or video contradicted what the
media reported as having happened, or how a photo
that was actually from Nepal was identified as being from Tibet.

CNN, BBC, Berliner Morgenpost, Germany’s N-TV,
the Times of London, and the New York Times were
all implicated in Xinhua’s report.

In tIn the uncropped version of this photo,
released to the world's media by the Chinese
Embassy to illustrate Tibetan violence during the
2008 unrest, a knife-wielding protester can be
seen (upper right.) After this person was
identified as a Chinese policeman dressed in
Tibetan clothes, the Embassy released the cropped
version (bottom) with the policeman removed from the photo.

The year 2008 was China’s Olympic year, and the
CCP prepared carefully in order to showcase
itself to the world. The CCP worried that in
response to the massacre in Lhasa, International
Olympic Committee member states would boycott the
games. So Xinhua was used to attack Western
media, providing the Chinese regime deniability for its crimes in Tibet.

Xinhua also sought to discredit for the Chinese
people the Western media’s reporting on the
suppression in Tibet in particular and the Western media in general.

Xinhua published the comment of a Chinese blogger
responding to how CNN had used a photo that
turned out to have been cropped. The blogger said
the Xinhua report "fully exposes the true face
and falsity of the so-called justice and
objective reporting the Western media have followed."

A long-standing propaganda claim deployed by the
Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is that there is a
conspiracy by the West directed against China.

Another blogger’s comment published by Xinhua
reinforced this meme: "Western media often attack
China’s democracy and human rights situation. The
true purpose of them [Western media] is to attack
the Chinese government, curb the rising of China,
and create the momentum for splitting China."

Chinese people influenced by Xinhua’s report --
or by its broadcast or publication by other media
throughout China -- would have been too
distracted by feelings of outrage and patriotism
to question the regime’s account of what happened in Lhasa on March 14.

Behind the Scenes

That several Western media would all
simultaneously make the mistakes reported by
Xinhua is strange and mysterious. With such basic
errors, some of the West’s most prestigious news
outlets damaged their long-cultivated reputations.

In normal situations in mainland China, the CCP’s
information blockade is extremely strict. In
situations such as Tibet in March 2008, the
information blockade is much stricter, and it is
very difficult to deliver sensitive information
through the Internet to anyone outside China.

Reporters from Western media in Lhasa would have
been strictly monitored. With different
information channels closed, who had the ability
to spread photos or videos to Western media in
time for use in their reports? Besides agents
working for the CCP, no one could have done it.

Thus, a news outlet would be given a cropped
photo, which it would publish, and then Xinhua
would publish the original photo, seemingly discrediting the Western media.

The Epoch Times recently encountered a situation
similar to what other international media
encountered in the Tibetan case. Epoch Times
reports on a massive explosion in Nanjing on July
28 quoted eyewitnesses and hospital personnel who
placed the death toll far higher than that
admitted by the authorities, embarrassing them.
Included with one of the initial reports was a
photo said to show dozens of burned bodies in Nanjing.

The Epoch Times learned later that the photo had
been provided to a trusted source in China by a
CCP agent. A day after publishing the photo, The
Epoch Times editorial staff realized the photo
said to be from Nanjing was in fact from Africa.
An uncropped version of the photo was available
that showed a group of blacks looking at the burned bodies.

The CCP’s media published the uncropped photo in
an attempt to discredit The Epoch Times, just as
Xinhua sought to discredit the media reporting on
the massacre in Tibet. But The Epoch Times had
acknowledged the error, which made the CCP’s efforts pointless.

On Feb. 9, 2009, CCTV’s brand-new building in
Beijing burned down. The Chinese people
applauded. The Chinese media may often succeed in
fooling the Chinese people, who have little
access to independent information. But the
Chinese people know the role the media outlets play and hate them for it.

At the same time, journalists in China lost their
dignity and independence long ago. They, too, are victims
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