How China’s “re-education” camps were covered in the UK, US, Europe and Muslim Country Media
This is a NEWS FRAMING ANALYSIS for the module about Media Sociology and Reporting on Politics.
The Style of referencing should be – Leeds Harvard.
COMM5540M The Reporting of Politics
How the topic of China’s “re-education” camps were covered in the UK, US, Europe and Muslim Country Media?
Currently, there is a worlwide interest in the topic of so-called Chinese re-educational camps. Consequently, there are a large volume of mass media products about Uighurs and other muslim minority crackdowns in China. The problem was firstly raised by Human Rights Organization in first decade of 2018, however, the topic gained enourmous popularity by the end of the same year. According to the report of Human Rights Watch, China’s Government “stepped up repression” against 13 million Muslims, mostly consisting of Uighurs and ethnic Kazakhs, in Xinjiang region (Human Rights Watch, 2018). But Chinese side actively denies all accusations and explains the existence of “training centers” as a part of a plan against separatism (Luu et al., 2018).
Framing theory was defined by Erving Goffman as a way of structuring an individual’s perception of society (Lanzi, 2013). Goffman explained the importance of Framing as a powerful tool to influence peoples mind, preferences and choices. That is one of the reasons why mass media outlets actively use framing. The News framing analysis directed to distinguishing particular criterias of selection and notice some repeated patterns, which also would be done in this paper. In order to have a broader view and understand media effects on people, the covering of the aforementioned topic in the mass media of the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe and Muslim countries would be compared.
The main body of News framing analysis will be divided into two parts – the covering in newspapers and on TV. The first part will focus on four newspapers – The Washington Post, The Independent, Le Monde and Hurriet Daily News. In the second part I analysed materials of four Television companies – CNN, BBC, France 24 and Al-Jazeera. My choice can be justified by the fact that each of these media outlets is the major source of information with big audience and has a high impact to the public in their contries. The phrase “China’s camps” was used as a search prompt. I took 1 random article in each newspaper and 2 stories in TV (1 short story or live, 1 analytical reportage). Timeframe taming was May 2018 to current time.
The Covering in Newspapers
In this section repeated patterns in four newspapers about the situation in China are shown as well as differences. Paticularly, the various techniques namely priming, agenda-setting, framing through language choices, etc. are highlighted in the text below and supported by examples.
The Washington Post
A search for “China’s camps” on the website of The Washington Post popped up at least dozens of articles with very sensational headlines such as “China is brainwashing more than a million uighurs”, “China has put 1 million Muslims in concentration camps”, “China is expanding war on Islam”, etc. However, due to the limited access within the system of Paywalls, the editorial article through Nexis service was choosen.
In the choosen article all four functions of substantive framing can be seen (Entman, 2004). The authors define conditions of the situation as problematic by concrete headline (Anon, 2018) and expressions such as “massive indocrination”, “interment drive”, “crisis”, “crisis against an entire people”. The paper ignores the official call “re-education centres” and replace it by “concentration camps”, “spartan camps”, etc. Strong words namely “repression”, “punishing” “imprisonment”, “ubiquitous surveillance system”, “harassing Uighurs”, “jails”, etc. also contributes to shaping certain image about the situation in Xinjang. Preventing actions against terrorism and extremism identified as causes of the problem. However, the author express personal opinion saying that the official Chinese version does not make any sense. An element of moral judgement can be seen at the end of article (“Trump administration has done little”, “United States did not join. It should”, “United States should stand with other liberal democracies”). From the paper’s editorial perspective, there are several solutions: to legislate The Uighur Human Rights Policy Act of 2018; to create a US special coordinator in China who make the Chinese Governent accountable to the violations of human rights; and to sanction the companies, that provide specific technical equipment for Chinese side. The latter also exemplifies the last function of substantive framing – endorsing remedies (Entman, 2004).
Thus, strongly condemned and subjective policy of The Washington Post towards China’s Government exists.
The situation in China was presented to the British audience by many media outlets. But for this analysis The Independent was chosen due to their self-claimed “politically independent” direction in covering of all events.
Entman (2004) emphasyse in his book about Framing Theory that the conflicts and developments in foreign affairs are the most interesting. Obviously, the stuff of The Independent aware about it. Because the headline of choosen article (Shih and Kang, 2018) is the most sensational and provocative in comparison with other three (“Muslims forced to drink alcohol and eat pork in China’s “re-education” camps, former inmate claims”). The authors put first the information about suicide attemptings of the interviewed person. The Chinese official side stated later on in two small paragraphs, while the overall word count of this article is 3400. Unbalanced proportion, according to the framing technique, might be motivated by the desire to prioritize the “victim’s” side and neglect the side of “villains”. Whole article is constructed on the testimonies of three people.
As the The Washington Post, the scale of the situation definied by The Independent as enourmous and urgent. The claims of experts such as “the largest mass incarceration”, “cultural cleansing”, “the worst human rights violations in history” was provided repeatedly. What distinguishes this article from other three is concentration on tiny details and ingenious use of literary techniques. For instance, “Mr Bekali, who broke down in tears”, “the sound of misery”, “many people will never recover”, “the saddest experience of life”, “a knife cut a hole in my chest”, etc. Authors also provided offensive phrases of camps instructors about Uighur women, description of the types of punishment and the inner psychological conditions of “detainees”.
Overall, this article helps British audience to adopt vision of the situation in China as a total injustice, fear, despair, and helplessness.
For the analysis of the Europian perspective on “China’s camps” the French Newspaper Le Monde has choosen. The reason for that the outstanding history of French press amongs other Europeans (Benson, 2010) and strong trust of french people to this media outlet.
Despite the existence of some elements of framing in Le Monde, the coverage of China’s “vocational” camps in choosen article (Anon, 2018) is well-balanced and objective. The author does not escalate the ‘crisis’, although the secrecy of “cleansing mission” can be seen between the lines and thanks to visual materials. The first photo illustrates two chinese policemen, one of them is raising the hand and trying to obstruct the work of photo-correspondents; the second one is holding a firearm. Other visual materials, such as a map and a photo from the protest in Turkey, are rather informative, rather negative.
The language use is more balanced, discreet. The author does not overuse strong expressions, all references to camps put in the quotation marks and mostly named as “secret internment camps”. The background explanation and motives of Chinese Government are also provided. The aithor also added the position of the US and EU, the latter has decided to stop deportation of illegal Migrants-Uighurs to the China until the situation will be changed.
Nevertheless, some strong expressions such as “torture” and “brainwashing” were mentioned.
Hurriyet Daily News
Despite the fact that situation with Uighurs crackdown was widely reported on Western and European countries, the mass media of Middle East countries remained silent. Turkish officials broke media silence in October 2018, they admitted the “problematic” situation in China and encouraged Arab countries to cover it. Due to the limited number of newspapers are covering the main topic, the Hurriyet Daily News has been choosen for analysis.
The coverage of Chinese “re-education” camps in Hurriyet Daily News can heardly been considered as an objective and professional case. Because the main difference of Turkish media that they frame the governmental bodies of both countries as “villains” – Chinese side for “harassing” the human rights of Muslim minority and Turkish side for double standarts. Because the newspaper expecting from Turkish government the discontinuation of the cooperation with China. However, the situation with uighurs itself are neglected. Thus, it seems to be that the journalists of this newspaper trying to set up a clear agenda and push Turkish Government to stop all projects with China.
To sum up, the comparison of four newspapers revealed that the headlines and the beginning of all newspapers have the same elements of negativity towards China. However, they have used different visual imaginery. The framing techniques were widely used in American and British press, while the French Press has provided the most balanced vision of the choosen event.
The Covering on Television
This part considers similarities and differencies in the covering of the main topic by paying specific attention to the headlines, the visual materials, the tone of voiceovers, the questions and comments of TV-hosts before or after the material, language choice, etc.
On the web-site of an American Cable News Network (CNN) channel can be found around eight materials about China’s camp. Both choosen news stories for this analysis exemplify a clear framing approach of news coverage.
From the perspective of journalistic professionalism, CNN provides the information in a bias and subjective way. The evidence for that personal opinion of a host, that is expressed during Live with Reuters journalist, or leading questions to him (CNN Live, 2018). For example, she notes that the clip from the camps demonstrates a “weird surreal moment”. She also asks about to what extent the actions of Uighurs are staged or do the Chinese Government honestly believe that the centers are educational and effective. Hence, she is sowing the seeds of doubts in audience minds. During this Live a grimace of host’s face (CNN Live, 2018, 00:03:57-00:04:01) is another clear sign of framing.
The second analytical reportage of CNN is different from the materials of other channels in a number of important details. First of all, it has very sensational headline – “Uighur refugee describes horror inside Chinese camps”. Secondly, the author puts first the information about alleged deaths of baby and other detainees. Thirdly, the tone of author’s voice always changes when he notes the official version of China (CNN, 2019, 00:00:23-00:00:25; 00:00:32-00:00:35), which supported by the grimace on the face of author. Moreover, there is a plenty of very strong and emotional expressions such as “three years of nightmare”, “torture”, “this is part of much larger frightnening pattern”, “the climate of fear”, “desperate appeal on youtube”, “incarceration”, “they are terrified”, “a lot of prisoners die in detention”, and so on. The camps themselves are referred to as “internment camps”, “jail”, and “prison”. Finally, the reportaje was finished by strong phrase about China’s Government that allegedly killed the baby. Accordingly, all these factors frame the situation in China as a terrible tragedy and total despair, where the officials are “killers”.
In contrast to CNN, the covering of main topic by British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) seems more trustworthy. Because in addition to Uighurs testimonies and expert’s opinion BBC provided the satellite photographs, the statistics of building processes in China for the last several months, the official noticies on the doors of missing uigurs, etc (BBC News, 2018). The language use is more discreet; the journalists refers to the camps as “hidden camps”.
However, British channel also failed to provide well-balanced and full vision of the event in China. The personal opinion of journalist is expressed at the beginning of the story (“but it looks more like a prison”, “they do not want to see”, “grim details”, etc.). The local police forces interrupting the process of journalist’s work and blocking the way “to the truth” were repeatedly shown five times in material that lasts less than 5 minutes. (BBC News, 2018, 00:00:03 – 00:00:05; 00:00:06 – 00:00:09; 0:01:30 – 00:01:35; 00:02:34 – 00:02:45; 00:04:21 – 00:04:32). Another noticeable fact is the number of detained Uighurs. In contrast to other Channels that reported about 1 million and above “inmates”, the BBC told about 8 million people (BBC News, 2018, 00:01:50-00:01:55). In addition, the author develops a large scale of event by next expressions – “expanded on the massive scale”, “it is a part of something much bigger”, “it could be one of the biggest detentional facilities in the world”. The second analytical reportage mostly used the anxious sound effects and special deep cold voice-tone of the author, reminding the horror movie, in order to convey worried and unpleasant emotions. The language use of the second story is more concrete and harsh – “monster’s crime is taking place”, “the massive concentration”, “it could be an astonishing figure”, “the Chinese government cannot deny the shots from the space”, “The chinese Gulag”; “detainees” described as robots, that have lost their souls or lost their memory after car crush (BBC Newsnight, 2018). The journalist also put the interview with alleged “inmate” that describes the types of torture in details (BBC Newsnight, 2018, 00:06:12 – 00:06:29). Special attention should be payed to the last sentence of the material about China, that “has gone back to the harshest cruelties of German time, to mass incarceration, torture and brainwashing”. After the material the TV-host provides the version of Chinese Embassy, that after reportage will likely be perceived as a complete lie. Thus, there is no doubts that BBC is setting up a clear agenda…
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