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EU Reportedly Bowed to Beijing, Self-Censored Critique of Chinese Disinfo Campaign

The European Union reportedly delayed the release of a report on coronavirus disinformation and removed some criticism of the Chinese government after being pressured by China, according to a multiple media accounts.
Reuters interviewed four sources and reviewed diplomatic correspondence that showed the report, which was released just before the start of the weekend in Europe, had been significantly rearranged prior to its eventual release.
The report had been scheduled to be released on April 21 but was delayed after Chinese officials saw previews of it in the media, according to Reuters.
The original report cited Beijing’s efforts to lessen mentions of the coronavirus’ Chinese origins, blame the United States for its international spread and criticize France for its slow response, The New York Times reported.
“China has continued to run a global disinformation campaign to deflect blame for the outbreak of the pandemic and improve its international image,” the original report said. “Both overt and covert tactics have been observed.”
Prior to the report’s release, China reportedly demanded that the EU to soften the language.
One diplomatic correspondence reviewed by Reuters said that a Chinese official wrote, “if the report is as described and it is released today it will be very bad for cooperation.”
“The Chinese are already threatening with reactions if the report comes out,” EU diplomat Lutz Güllner wrote in a Tuesday email seen by The Times.
The four anonymous sources told Reuters that the report was delayed as a result of these communications, and significant changes were made.
For example, in the final version, the “global disinformation campaign” sentence was removed, as was any reference to the feud between China and France.
Instead, the final report read, “Official and state-backed sources from various governments, including Russia and — to a lesser extent — China, have continued to widely target conspiracy narratives and disinformation,” according to Politico.
The argument over the report revisions displayed the continued battle to curb misinformation.
One government disinformation analyst wrote to her bosses that the European Union was “self-censoring to appease the Chinese Communist Party,” The Times reported.
A source also confirmed to Politico the pressure placed on the European Union.
However, Peter Stano, a spokesman for the European External Action Service, said that The Times article made “ungrounded, inaccurate allegations and contains factually incorrect conclusions about the EEAS’ report.”
“The publications of the EEAS are categorically independent,” Stano told Politico.
“We have never bowed to any alleged external political pressure. This includes also our latest snapshot overview on disinfo trends.”

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