Thursday, March 15, 2012

Beijing on the Potomac

Seriously? I must say, words are beginning to fail me. - Reggie

Paper that broke Watergate partners with Chinese Communist Party

An advertising partnership between the Washington Post and a Chinese government propaganda outlet is raising questions about the propriety—and legality—of an American news outlet publishing foreign propaganda under its masthead.

At issue is the Post’s China Watch publication, a print and online advertising supplement that purports to deliver the news about China. The site hosts numerous articles and feature pieces that portray the Chinese government—particularly its human rights record—in a glowing light.

Some journalism experts and China observers say the partnership crosses ethical boundaries and misleads unassuming readers about the Chinese government’s lackluster record on a host of important issues.

The China Watch website, which features the Washington Post’s official masthead, looks like many other online news sites, containing videos, articles, and slideshows. However, a small block of text in the website’s right-hand corner offers a disclaimer: “A Paid Supplement to The Washington Post.”

Journalism experts believe that the Post should explain to readers the precise nature of its relationship with China.

“They need to address the proverbial elephant in the living room—why are you carrying a Communist government-sponsored publication?” asked Lois Boynton, a journalism professor at the University of North Carolina’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

“It raises some ethical issues for the Post,” said Boynton, who criticized China Watch for intentionally obfuscating its origins.

“There are issues of transparency associated with who publishes China Watch,” she said. “The ‘about’ blurb doesn’t provide that detail. Although many people may know that China mainstream media is government-controlled, it may not be clear for all readers.”

“Readers go right through this section as if they’re moving through the hard news to the more in depth reporting, never realizing that they’re being inundated with Chinese government propaganda,” said Stephen Yates, a former national security adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney. “It doesn’t hit a person that they’ve arrived at an ad supplement filled with things that have passed Chinese Communist Party filters.”

China Watch’s content is chiefly produced by China Daily, an English-language newspaper that takes an uncritical look at the People’s Republic of China and toes the Communist party line on a range of issues, including the economy and politics.

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