Press muse – Beijing rumour mill

If you ever wondered what editorialising looked like, here’s one particularly egregious instance. The Straits Times’ website picked this story up on Tuesday (22 June).

China Smashes Terror Group

BEIJING – Chinese security forces have broken up a terrorist group and will give details later this week, the Ministry of Public Security said on Tuesday.

The ministry made the brief announcement in an email to journalists inviting them to a news conference, the subject of which would be ‘circulating a notice about the Ministry of Public Security solving the case of a large terrorist organisation’. A ministry spokeswoman declined to give further details, saying they would be revealed at the briefing on Thursday.

China blames what it calls terrorist groups operating in the restive far western region of Xinjiang for attacks on police or other government targets. It says these groups espouse violent separatism and that some have links with other Central Asian militants or al Qaeda.

While the Olympic Games were held in Beijing in 2008, there were at least three attacks against police and paramilitary troops near Xinjiang’s southern frontier city of Kashgar, which China attributed to Uighur separatists.

The Muslim Uighurs are a Turkic-speaking ethnic group native to the region that often chafes under Chinese rule and resents an influx of Han Chinese workers from central China.

Exiles say China whips up the threat posed by separatists to justify often harsh crackdowns in the region, and that there is little evidence to support claims of al Qaeda influence. – AFP.

Spotted it yet?

The first two paragraphs are the only ‘news’ in this story. The subsequent four paragraphs may be factually accurate, but have no obvious link to the preceding ones. As Agence France-Presse themselves report, the Chinese government gave nothing away about this terror group they busted. The link to Uighurs in Xinjiang was a gratuitous AFP addition – no anonymous sources cited, no insider leaks acknowledged.

And they aren’t the only ones to do it. Reuters and ABC News took the bait as well.

All this, of course, may yet turn out to be true. But we’ll only really know on Thursday, wouldn’t we?

I thought news agencies never assume anything, and report facts and not rumours. Guess some Beijing correspondents (and the Straits Times’ copy tasters) didn’t get that memo.

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~ by spiegel2071 on June 22, 2010.

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