Australian broadcaster kowtows to China
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Australian broadcaster kowtows to China

State-funded network censors film on Uighurs, reports Asia Sentinel

Australia is forever lecturing other countries, particularly small ones like Fiji, on rights and freedoms so it is particularly shocking to learn of the censorship practiced by the state-funded Australia Network to please China, largest buyer of its minerals. The domestic Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) may also be implicated.

The issue has arisen over Ten Conditions of Love, an independently produced Australian documentary film about the oppression of the Uighur people of Xinjiang as seen through the experiences of Rebiya Kadeer, a once-lauded businesswoman who is now in exile and seen as the most prominent leader of her people, who are still 45 percent of Xinjiang’s population despite Beijing’s best efforts to induce Han migration to a region which was mostly Uighur in 1949. (Han are 40 percent, the remaining 15 percent Kazakhs and others).


Rebiya Kadeer. Pic: AP.

The film first made news in 2009 when China attempted to stop its screening at the Melbourne International Film Festival and in fact pulled movies from the Melbourne Festival in protest against the screening and hacked the Festival website.

It had by then been bought by the Australia Network, which overseas audiences, and was later acquired by the ABC for domestic showing. But it has never been shown on the Australia Network which would make it available in China but only those few permitted to receive it by satellite or cable services available only to non-nationals.

The Australia Network has since described its failure to broadcast the film as being inadvertent. However, its former network programmer, Rod Webb wrote: “There was nothing inadvertent about Australia Network’s failure to show the film. I was instructed on a number of occasions not to show it until further notice.” He added that on at least one of those occasions he was told that this instruction came from the highest level – the managing director of the ABC. (The ABC operates the Australia Network, a free-to-0air service available overseas and funded partly by the government and partly from advertising)