The Immoral and Life-Threatening Harm of Propaganda Labels Against Falun Gong
For many years, the Falun Dafa Information Center has noticed a disturbing trend in international media coverage of Falun Gong: the echoing of characterizations against Falun Gong formulated by the Chinese Communist Party like, “political,” “anti-china,” or “cult,” in an attempt to “balance” a story.
The point of good journalism is to find the truth and report it. These labels are obvious attempts to marginalize Falun Gong with often brutal, sometimes deadly, results. Therefore, including these labels does not “balance” the story. Instead, it dilutes and confuses the truth, or often worse, it strengthens the systematic campaign of abduction, torture and killing Falun Gong practitioners.
As far back as 1999 Amnesty International, Human Right Watch and the Washington Post have reported that these terms are clearly unsubstantiated, high-pressured propaganda used to turn public opinion against Falun Gong so that the Chinese government can sanction violence against the group in order to eliminate them.
Any investigation into these claims, including a simple Google search, shows that organizations likes Reporters Without Borders has continuously condemned the Chinese regime for their complete media censorship of Falun Gong in China, where any reporter who tries to report on Falun Gong is arrested and deported. Or the fact that since 1992 Falun Gong has been practiced in over 100 countries worldwide by millions of people from all cultural backgrounds, including Asian countries like Taiwan, and not one of the Chinese regime’s claims against Falun Gong has ever gained traction anywhere else in the world.
Yet still, journalists continue to ask the questions and continue to use the propaganda labels which in turn gives voice to the Chinese regime.
Mr. David Matas, renowned human rights lawyer and author of the book, “Bloody Words: Hate and Free Speech”, and co-author of the published paper for the International Association of Genocide Scholars, “Cold Genocide: Falun Gong in China,” says that bigotry is troubling not just because the answers which are given but because of the questions which are asked. “Are blacks criminals? Do Jews control the world? Are Muslim’s terrorists? Are the Falun Gong a cult? The very attempt to answer these questions is demeaning.”
Matas explains that using propaganda terms to contextualize what the propagandist thinks, accepts the propaganda and the question of the propagandist as valid and gives credence to it, thus aiding in the oppression.
If journalists choose to use the labels crafted by a tyrannical regime to demonize the oppressed, it must be made clear what they are: tools of oppression and not genuine attempts at description or characterization. Anything short of that is simply allowing the media to be used by the Chinese Communist Party to magnify their reach and ability to oppress.
As journalists we hope you understand the great responsibility you have to protect justice and we trust that you will be sensitive to these concerns.
For more in-depth exploration of this topic, see Characterizing Falun Gong and the Human Cost of Getting It Wrong.