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China pays for Tibet propaganda in Malawi

April 9, 2009

By Phurbu Thinley
April 08, 2009

Dharamsala, April 8 -- A whopping 12-page
advertisement spread entitled "50 years of
Democratic Reform in Tibet" at first appeared
"remarkably like editorial content" to an
American blogger, thanks to The Daily Times of
Malawi for running a bizarre ad on Monday for China.

"To my eye, this spread looked far more like
editorial content - a newsmagazine, perhaps. This
illusion is aided by the statement, which appears
on all twelve pages, reading ‘Supplement to The
Daily Times’," blogger John Duffel writes on his blog.

"At no point is there any indication of who
wrote, or paid for, these twelve pages. It blends
in so well with the surrounding editorial
content, I myself was not aware that it was an
advertisement at all, until I had almost finished reading it," he adds.

Duffell later found out that the advertisement,
extolling the virtues of China’s policies in
Tibet, was paid for by none other than the Chinese Embassy in Malawi.

In a letter along with a copy of the newspaper
supplement sent to Passport, a blog by editors of
Foreign Policy, Duffell further writes:

"I'm an American who's been living in southern
Malawi for nearly a year and a half. Yesterday
(Monday) morning, during a trip to town, I picked
up a copy of Malawi's "Daily Times" newspaper to
find a 12-page advertisement celebrating "50
years of democratic reform in Tibet." It's mostly
about how grateful the people of Tibet are that
China has reclaimed what's rightfully hers, and
given them freedom at long last. [...] The ad
spread looks remarkably like editorial content,
and I've since learned that it was paid for by the Chinese Embassy in Malawi.”

As has been widely reported, the Chinese
government is launching a massive "external
propaganda" mission by providing substantial
funding to create media that will be broadcast and distributed overseas.

Apparently, this effort now includes Malawi, a
landlocked country in Southeast Africa.

Malawi is among the world's least developed and
most densely populated countries. The Malawian
government depends heavily on outside aid to meet development needs.

"It's not news that China is waging a public
relations campaign along with its economic
expansion in Africa, but it's a bit hard to
understand why Malawians would care that much
about Tibet, or why China would care that much
what they think," Passport comments.

There's more info on Duffell's blog, including a
bizarre conversation with the newspaper's editor, which, in part, reads:

"I have been told by the paper's Advertising
Manager that the Chinese Embassy in Malawi is
responsible for the ad. I managed to contact the
Managing Editor of the paper as well, and I asked
him why they printed an advertisement designed to
disguise itself as editorial content, and why,
instead of clarifying that it was indeed
advertising, the paper thought it necessary to
incorporate their own logo into the layout of the
advertising spread - thereby giving the
impression that this advertising content was, in
fact, approved by the Daily Times of being
"worthy" of its brand. The managing editor
insisted that the text reading "ADVERTISING" in
the corner of each page provided all the necessary clarification.

When asked whether anyone who wanted could write
up a news story - no matter its truth or
falsehood - and run it in his paper as
advertising, the Managing Editor told me no -
there are standards in place, and each
advertisement is carefully screened to see if it
is worthy of being printed in The Daily Times.
The Chinese Embassy's advertisement, he said, passed this test.

At this point, he began to make some accusations.
He accused me of trying to get him sacked from
his job, of hating the Chinese, and of being from
Tibet myself (though I speak with an American
accent) - or being a covert agent of Tibet.

[...] I'll let you all be the judge of whether I
am, in fact, a Tibetan agent. In the meantime, if
you have something you'd like to say to the
Editorial Office of The Daily Times, they can be
contacted at"

Duffel has painstakingly scanned all twelve pages
(each one in two parts, 24 scans overall) and and
has uploaded them to his Flickr account.

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