Associated Press CEO meets with Chinese state media ahead of China-led propaganda-fest World Media Summit

President and CEO of Associated Press, Daisy Veerasingham, met with President of Xinhua News Agency, Fu Hua, in Beijing Sunday, August 13, and said that AP is open to discussions with Xinhua on news exchanges ahead of the 5th World Media Summit later this year, Chinese state media outlet Xinhua reported.

Both Fu and Veerasingham commended the more than 50 year history of cooperation between [Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece] Xinhua and AP. Fu expressed the hope that the two sides will further strengthen cooperation in text news exchange and photo distribution, and continue to report on China-US relations comprehensively, objectively, and accurately.

During the meeting, Fu talked about the progress of the 5th World Media Summit, saying that Xinhua stands ready to work with AP to promote the development of the summit and make it an effective platform for global media exchanges and mutual learning, the Xinhua report noted.

The World Media Summit is a Chinese-led initiative billing itself as “a high-level communicating platform which is comprised of world-renown news organizations such as the News Corporation, the Associated Press, Reuters, Xinhua News Agency, ITAR-TASS News Agency, Kyodo News, British Broadcasting Corporation, Turner Broadcasting Company, MIH Group, Kasturi & Sons Limited, and Folha Group.” According to information gleaned from WMS social media accounts and Xinhua News, the first GMS meeting was held in Beijing in 2009, and the second meeting was held in Moscow in 2012.

Information on the organization’s social media accounts (Facebook, LinkedIn) appears to not have been updated since 2014, while the group’s official website is now a website about gambling.

But the World Media Summit is definitely not defunct. A third WMS meeting was originally slated to be hosted by The New York Times in New York in 2014. Chairman of the New York Times Company, Arthur Sulzberger Jr. was quoted by China Daily Europe at the time as saying “we are delighted to be engaged in the WMS and believe it is a mission to foster understanding among leading world media organizations.”

However, the New York summit never happened, and the 3rd World Media Summit was eventually hosted by Al Jazeera in Qatar in 2016.

Xinhua and Associated Press presidents pledge cooperation at world media summit, Doha, 2016. Screenshot of Xinhua News page.
Xinhua News Agency page about 3rd World Media Summit, Doha, 2016. But articles appear to have been removed.

The Xinhua News website has a page pointing to articles about the 3rd World Media Summit held in Doha, in 2016. But none of the links work, and articles are no longer accessible.

But while the World Media Summit remained somewhat obscure, disorganized in maintaining its own website and social media presence, and largely ignored in corporate media reports, the 4th WMS drew 260 of the worlds largest and most influential media outlets and institutions to Beijing in November of 2021.

The 4th World Media Summit, with the theme “Media Growth Strategy under the Impact of COVID-19,” even attracted the support and praise of General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jinping.

Xi wrote a congratulatory letter to the WMS and said that “the world is under the intertwined impact of once-in-a-century global changes and unprecedented pandemic, and the international landscape is undergoing profound and complex evolution.”

“Media bears important social responsibilities in seeking correct answers to the major questions of our times and building wide consensus around the world,” Xi said.

Xi’s letter became the focus of Xinhua’s reporting on the 2021 summit, with news headlines such as “Xi’s letter gives guidance for closer exchanges among media,” Xi sends congratulatory letter to fourth World Media Summit,” and “Xi’s letter inspires media to shoulder social responsibilities, promote common values, say media professionals.”

As for the COVID-19 theme, executive of the WMS, and president of Xinhua News Agency, He Ping, said “the pandemic endangers the health of mankind, and the media has a mission to fulfill.”

Ping called on the world media to fully reflect the consensus and actions of all countries to jointly fight the COVID-19 pandemic, tell the anti-pandemic stories well, spread positive information, reflect ordinary people’s feats, and tell the glory of human nature, Xinhua reported.

In an interview published by Xinhua, Cuban media executive Luis Enrique Gonzalez said that the World Media Summit is a platform to combat fake news.

“Coordinated efforts to combat misinformation and disinformation campaigns are more necessary than ever, Gonzalez said.

Defending traditional media organizations, and expressing fear of the dangers of social media, Gonzalez said “news organizations are called to provide people with high-quality journalism at a time the media landscape is changing dramatically with the emergence of new technologies of information and communication.”

“Unfortunately, digital platforms and social networking sites are also used to irresponsibly spread rumors and biased news nowadays,” Gonzalez said.

“We are called to create a common front for the defense of truth, social responsibility and ethics in journalism,” he said.

Tarek el-Sonoty, editor-in-chief of Egypt’s state media outlet Al-Ahram, used the 4th World Media Summit to accuse western media outlets of being purveyors of fake news.

el-Sonoty said Western media outlets often come up with false news and reports on what is happening in China’s Hong Kong, Taiwan and Xinjiang to undermine the country’s stability.

“I have visited China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region three times, as well as many other regions in China, and met with many Muslims and visited many mosques there, and I found that there is real harmony within the Chinese society,” el-Sonoty said.

“It is the role of the Egyptian, the Arab and the African media, in cooperation and coordination with the Chinese media, to convey the true picture of what is happening in China,” el-Sonoty emphasized.

With such luminary media organizations as The New York Times, Reuters, and even Google Inc. attending the World Media Summits held to date, why is there nothing reported about the forum in the corporate press? A Google search returns a smattering of results, mostly from the CCP mouthpiece Xinhua News Agency.

A deeper search will bring up a few poignant articles by David Bandurski at the China Media Project written around the time of the first and second World Media Summits 2009-2013. In one article, “Global media groups knuckle under to curry Beijing’s favor,” Bandurski concludes that “this “summit” may be dressed up as a platform for professional, “non-government” exchange — but it is really a naked ploy by the CCP to enhance China’s global influence over media agendas.”

Bandurski interprets the language used by the WMS organizers as signifying that Beijing sees the future of world media as “matters principally for a global bureaucratic elite. The chief purpose of this meeting… is to establish China’s position within that elite.

Bandurski reveals that the World Media Summit was set ups as a result of informal discussions between former deputy chief of China’s Central Propaganda Department, and at the time, President of Xinhua News Agency, Li Congjun, and News Corporation CEO Rupert Murdoch, AP President Tom Curley, Reuters News Editor-in-Chief David Schlesinger, Kyodo News President Satoshi Ishikawa, and BBC Director-General Mark Thompson. According to Xinhua News Agency, the summit’s governing Secretariat was composed of representatives of world media giants including AP, BBC, Google, ITAR TASS, Kyodo, News Corporation, Reuters, and Xinhua.

By 2013, Bandurski had realized that he was a lone voice in the wilderness in covering stories about the World Media Summit. In “Your only report on the World Media Summit,” Bandurski describes the summit as “the media event all major global media players attend, but none bother to actually cover.”

Taiwan English News will not be attending this year’s 5th World Media Summit, but it may be the only place you read about it.

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