Ofcom has launched a formal investigation into the international arm of China’s state broadcaster over an allegation that it broadcast a forced confession from a jailed British citizen on UK TV.
Former journalist Peter Humphrey made a fairness and privacy complaint to the broadcast regulator in November after China Global Television Network allegedly aired a confession he and his wife had made.
CGTN is the international arm of China Central Television, which opened a European hub in Chiswick Park, London, at the end of last year, some two years after launching its English TV channel. It airs on Sky and Freesat.
Corporate investigator Humphrey and his US wife Yu Yingzeng (both pictured) were detained in China in 2013 and later sentenced to less than five years in jail between them for illegally obtaining private records of Chinese citizens and selling the information to clients, including drugmaker Glaxosmithkline, according to Reuters.
They were deported from China in June 2015 after their sentences were reduced.
During their imprisonment, a confession from the pair was aired on TV in China and on its international channels, including in the UK, Humphrey claims.
An Ofcom spokesperson said today: “We have decided to investigate a fairness and privacy complaint about news programmes broadcast on CCTV News. If we find our rules have been broken, we will take the appropriate action.”
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Media Show about his experience last month, Humphreys said he had been given a sedative before being removed from his cell and taken to a large interrogation cell surrounded by cameras where he was locked into an iron chair.
“I was in a total state of shock and trauma and I was also drowsy from this drug and the cameras were pointing through the bars of the cage and one of the policemen, who was actually my daily chief interrogator, was standing outside the cage with a clipboard and a list of questions and answers on it,” he said. “So he pretended voice wise to be a journalist asking me questions.
“I had enough consciousness to know that this was all wrong and they were trying to get me to say things that I didn’t want to say because they were trying to get me to incriminate myself for crimes that I hadn’t committed and I was trying to navigate between saying something that would get me out of there and saying something that wouldn’t incriminate me.”
Humphrey added that when he finally saw the footage nearly two years later after his release from prison, it had been “cut and pasted” with additional material and “distorted and mistranslated”.
“I think based on the conduct of CCTV and CGTN in the UK in the last few years I think that their licence should be revoked and they should have no place in our broadcasting community until they have demonstrated that they are prepared to follow the law of this country,” Humphrey added.
Ofcom declined to provide any further information on the complaint, saying those relating to fairness and privacy are confidential, but that a full decision will be published once the investigation is over.
CGTN did not respond to a request for comment.