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Philippines under China’s expanding media influence — report

/ 05:22 PM January 18, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — China’s expanding influence on the media may have reached the Philippines, according to a U.S. watchdog organization.

In the last five years, 75 countries, including the Philippines, had sent officials or reporters to China for journalism, media or information control said a recent report of U.S.-based Freedom House called “Beijing’s Global Megaphone.”

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“Media officials and prominent journalists from the Philippines visited China for two weeks in May 2018 to learn about ‘new media development’ and ’socialist journalism with Chinese characteristics,’” the report said.

The seminars or trainings, the report said, serve as “an avenue for the Chinese government to promote an alternative approach to journalism and news management that is not based on traditional democratic principles regarding press freedom.”

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The state-owned news agencies of the Philippines and China have previously agreed to enhance cooperation.

According to a report by the Philippine News Agency in November, the Presidential Communications Operations Office has multiple bilateral media and communications agreements with the Chinese government, which covers commitments to pursue personnel exchanges, workshops, seminars, information exchanges, rebroadcasts, joint production and mutual visits.

Beijing efforts

China’s initiatives in improving its image abroad may have been effective to some extent.

Citing Pew Research Center surveys from 2018 and 2019, the report said public views of China are mostly positive in the Middle East, Africa, and Southeast Asia than in Europe, North America, Northeast Asia and Australia.

It also noted that President Xi Jinping was well regarded in Russia, the Philippines, Tunisia, Nigeria and Kenya in 2018.

Since 2017, Chinese influence campaigns overseas have accelerated with new tactics in the form of censorship, propaganda, and control over content-delivery systems, the report said.

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“Chinese state media, government officials, and affiliated companies are achieving increased influence over key nodes in the global information flow, exploiting the more sophisticated technological environment, and showing a readiness to meddle in the internal political debates and electoral contests of other countries,” said Sarah Cook, the author of the report.

In China, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) controls most of news reporting through ownership of most of the news agencies, accreditation of journalists and penalties for critical reporting.

China also restricts certain social media apps and websites, as it exerts tight control over online discourse.

WeChat

Chinese web app WeChat is gaining popularity in the Philippines, the report said. This app is a combination of instant messaging, business services and electronic payments.

The popularity of this app is creating new avenues for CCP to potentially influence news distribution outside China, it added.

China has also been attributed to Russian-style social media disinformation campaigns and efforts to manipulate search results on global online platforms, the report said.

The tactics that were once used to primarily co-opt Chinese diaspora media and suppress critical coverage in overseas Chinese-language publications are now being used to influence mainstream media in various countries, it added.

In other countries, China spends millions to disseminate propaganda using mainstream media. The print editions of American publications like the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal include paid news-like advertising supplement from China Daily, a Chinese state-run news agency.

Similar advertorial inserts also appear in major newspapers appear elsewhere in the world, the report said.

Governments should push back against China’s efforts to influence media, including imposing penalties on Chinese diplomats and tightening broadcast regulations.

“When Chinese diplomats and security agents overstep their bounds and attempt to interfere with media reporting in other countries, the host government should vigorously protest,” the report said.

Diplomats, media regulators, lawmakers, and others should regularly discuss China’s foreign media influence tactics and best-practice responses as part of the agenda at bilateral and multilateral meetings among democratic governments, it added.

Edited by MUF
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