Note: The following is an edited translation of a commentary from the Chinese-language "Commentaries on International Affairs."
The world is shocked by another example of fake news. After six months of investigation, BBC Syria producer Riam Dalati has come to a startling conclusion: video footage showing a so-called “chemical weapon attack” in the Syrian city of Douma in April 2018 was staged. His assertion echoes an earlier revelation by Russian sources about inaccurate western media coverage. Unfortunately, it was the footage in question that led to US, British and French airstrikes in Syria.
Still more unfortunately, the practice of manufacturing stories and faking news is not new; mainstream western media and some western politicians often do it for political or military gains – the most well-known example being the cause for the War in Iraq back in 2003. In the absence of a UN mandate, and based on inaccurate intelligence, the US government imposed military aggression on a sovereign nation, killing hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians and nearly 10,000 of its own troops. So far, no politicians from the US or the UK have been held accountable for their mistakes and lies. The US media, which sold the story of “WMDs in Iraq” to the general public, scarcely questioned the authenticity of the inaccurate intelligence.
The mainstream western media has erred in its coverage of Iraq as much as it has misrepresented China. Not long ago, CNN aired a story about a Uyghur woman named Mihrigul Tursun, who claimed she had witnessed 68 detainees suffer – and some die - in a tiny 37-square meter cell. Last year, she gave testimony at a Congressional-Executive Commission in Washington DC making false allegations which US lawmakers, including Marco Rubio, used as important evidence to drive their “Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2018.” Even after Mihrigul’s remarks had been proven to be nothing but deliberate lies, CNN kept their reports about her on their websites, and these were then cited by other media organizations.
What’s more, some western media reports recently alleged that Uyghur poet and musician Abdurehim Heyit had died in custody, leading to accusations from Turkey. However, the latest video footage indicates that Abdurehim Heyit is very much alive and healthy and confounded by allegations about his death. During an interview with the Chinese media, Turkish expert and member of a Turkish opposition party Adnan Akfirat, said the western media is distributing lies fabricated by western intelligence agencies, and the main problem in Turkey is that western media has too much influence.
Telling the truth is the essence of journalism. Where is the credibility in journalism if the news stories being published are staged or directed? This is not a concept unknown to western media people. So why would they make such serious mistakes that have even fueled conflicts, wars and murders? Were the false stories published due to ignorance or arrogance? Were they created knowingly and willfully, or were they the product of ingrained ideology?
If we see through "the emperor's new clothes" that the western media champion as freedom of the press, it is clear that since some western mainstream media professionals are part of the social elite, their news values also tend to reflect the world view of their own class. The practice of interventionism is part of it. When reporting on the world, Western media personnel often subconsciously regard themselves as the universal rule makers and defenders of human rights and freedom. From time to time they adopt a condescending attitude, mostly accusing and preaching, showing little respect. A case in point is their China-related reports. Some media outlets have been putting forward the "China threat theory" and "China collapse theory", among others, only to discover that after all these years of shouting, no one has seen China threatening anybody or collapsing in any shape or form. Some academic studies have also pointed out that even private western mainstream media are often conscious defenders of national interests when reporting to overseas audiences, intentionally or unintentionally, leaving behind the principle of retaining objectivity and fairness in news reporting. The so-called freedom of the press practiced by some western media is in fact the freedom to deliberately distort, smear and even slander other countries with prejudice and discrimination.
It’s been reported that there were eleven lies widely spread as facts on the eve of the Iraq War. Many believe that "being honest in minor stories and lying about major events" has become a common practice of the Western powers. The western media pretends to be impartial, but actually plays the role of an accessory to wrongdoing. In recent years, whether it is related to Syria, Libya, Venezuela or the Yemen crisis, news reports have taken on the same pattern: few question the rationality and correctness of their country's interference in other nations’ internal affairs, yet most cooperate with their governments in fabricating “supportive public opinion” - some even filmed a false “chemical attack” in Syria - to make excuses for the use of force.
Today, the western mainstream media dominates the international communication industries, affecting the trend of international public opinion. Obviously, it is hard for the public to obtain objective and balanced information. No wonder that Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov said that Russia was "not surprised" by the revelations made by BBC producer Riam Dalati. He added that many current high-level policymakers in the United States and Europe, who subsequently called for the 'protection of peaceful Syrians from the regime's terrible chemical attacks' and authorized missile and air strikes on Syria, must be trying to 'forget' this issue to avoid moral, political and criminal responsibility. The BBC’s spokesperson, on the other hand, is dismissive of Mr Dalati's claim, calling it a "personal opinion". There is also hardly any coverage of Mr Dalati's findings in the western mainstream media. They again opted for collective silence.
It seems that the western media are used to playing "Pinocchio" when cooperating with governments and spinning lies.