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US lawmakers say China’s state-owned media should stop peddling fake news

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Australian Financial Press (AFP) – Australian lawmakers are urging state-run Chinese newspapers to stop peddle fake news, saying it undermines the country’s democratic principles.

In a letter to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, Senator Darryl Clune of the Australian Greens said it was unacceptable that foreign media organisations had access to state-controlled Chinese media outlets.

“Foreign media organisations should be barred from working with state-funded Chinese state-backed media outlets, unless the foreign media organisation is also working with Chinese state media,” he said in a statement.

Senator Clune’s letter came as Chinese state news agency Xinhua said Chinese state television, state-supported news outlets and state-sponsored websites should not be used for spreading “fake news”.

In his letter, Senator Clune said the issue of “fake” news should not just be an issue for journalists, but that it was also a concern for citizens.

“It is the role of media outlets to accurately report the news and provide citizens with the best possible information and education about their rights and freedoms, and that is what should be the primary concern of the media, not the content of the news,” he wrote.

“If foreign media outlets wish to report on the content and ethics of state-operated media outlets and foreign state-led media outlets then they should report accurately on this issue, not merely what they choose to publish on the Chinese state and state funded media.”

Foreign media outlets have long been accused of peddling “fake”, “misleading” and “misrepresentative” news.

The letter was signed by four other senators, including Senator John Madigan, the Liberal Democrat who is the head of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs.

“The Chinese government has a long record of suppressing news and information that threatens national security,” the letter said.

“We strongly urge you to immediately cease all cooperation with the media outlets that promote false, misleading and inaccurate news and news content, as well as all efforts to circumvent the media’s reporting and editorial independence and to refrain from using foreign media websites for this purpose.”

The letter said “foreign state-directed” media outlets were operating in China, including in Xinjiang, and the government should ensure “fair and impartial” news coverage.

“State-owned Chinese state TV, Xinhua and other state-linked media outlets can be used to spread disinformation and propaganda to undermine China’s democratic system, including promoting ‘fake news’ and ‘misinformation’,” it said.

The US Congress has long criticised Chinese media for promoting “fake, misleading, and inaccurate” news stories, saying they undermine the countrys ability to control information flow.

The Chinese Communist Party, which controls the government, has been criticised for clamping down on the media and censoring websites.

China has a thriving state media industry, with Xinhua, CCTV, CCTV Central, CCTV Global, CCTV World, and other outlets, as many as 20 of which are owned by the state.

In January, US President Donald Trump said he would make China one of his top priorities in fighting terrorism, as he seeks to normalise relations with Beijing.

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