By David Matas and David Kilgour
January 20, 2009
Julie Miville Dechêne
Ombudsman, Service français
We do not find the answer we received from Radio Canada, attached, to our complaint satisfactory, also attached. Accordingly, we wish to pursue our complaint.
1. The response that the tension in Chinatown "was largely caused by Falun Gong presence in the neighbourhood" is improper. This is a form of blaming the victims for their victimization. Falun Gong are vilified and persecuted. There is a direct link between the vilification and persecution. The Falun Gong protest the vilification. The fault lies with the villifier not the protesters.
Crescent Chau and La Presse Chinoise engaged, in the words of the Quebec Court of Appeal, in
"diffamation lorsque, sans preuves, ils accusaient certaines personnes d'actes criminels et d'actes pervers. Singulièrement, voir les allégations no 1 (blanchiment d'argent, rapports avec le milieu des criminels ou des meurtriers); no 4 (femmes forcées de faire de la prostitution); no 5 (bestialité); no 6 (?); no 7 (vampirisme ?); no 13 (violence et cruauté)... les textes mensongers et diffamatoires ont tous comme cible Li Hongzhi, son entourage, des dirigeants du mouvement ou le mouvement lui même."
See paragraph 13 and 14 of their judgment of May 13, 2008 in the case of Zhang v. Chau.
Surely, in this context, the cause of tension was the defamation without proof of criminal and perverse acts by Crescent Chau and La Presse Chinoise against the Falun Gong and not the presence of the Falun Gong. Is it really right to say that those responsible for tension are those protesting defamation and not those who defame?
2. The letter from Radio Canada answering our complaint further rejects our statement that the Falun Gong is not an organization by a number of assertions without proof. The statement says that initiatives are "highly structured". But what is the structure which Radio Canada asserts? This is just an assumption on their part without detail or evidence.
The Radio Canada refers to "no shortage of money". What money? Later there is the assertion of "considerable financial resources". What financial resources? Again we have here assertions based on assumptions without detail or evidence.
The sole reference to buttress these assertions is the publication of the La Grande Époque with "bureaus in 30 countries, is printed on quality paper in 17 languages, but contains little advertising". Yet, there is a simple explanation for this phenomenon, that it is produced and distributed by volunteers, leaving only the cost of paper and ink, which is donated by individual practitioners from their salaries.
The letter refers to different organs working in lockstep. Again this is just an assertion without evidence. It is hardly surprising that people engaged in a common practice with an underlying common belief would be horrified by slander and persecution of their co-practitioners. But to jump from that normal human common reaction to an allegation without foundation of a well funded structure moving in lockstep is a conspiracy fantasy, something that a public broadcaster should be able to identify and avoid.
The media, as a group, have far less in common in Falun Gong practitioners. Yet, the mainstream media, including Radio Canada, sometimes engage in pack journalism, reporting the same events at the same time in the same way. This pack journalism has led conspiracy fantasists to accusations of a global media conspiracy, accusations that the global mainstream media is directed by highly structured, well financed interests, as a result of which the media as a whole moves in lockstep.
This is the sort of accusation of which I assume Radio Canada is well aware. It is worrying that a media outlet which has been the butt of conspiracy fantasies that have as little evidence in their support as the conspiracy fantasy about the Falun Gong in which Radio Canada indulges would itself fall prey to this sort of fantasy.
Because we have travelled the world to speak about our report, we have met Falun Gong practitioners in more than forty countries and sixty cities. Though neither of us is Falun Gong practitioners, simply because of our travels, we have probably met more practitioners and know more about the Falun Gong day to day than anyone else. We know very well that there is no structure, little money and sometimes hapless coordination.
What little money there is comes from individuals who each donate a bit to individual specific expenditures on goods and services needed from day to day (and not a common bank account) in support a cause in which they believe. We have met many of these individual donors and had explained to us what and how much they spent their money on. It would have been a simple matter for Radio Canada to get similar information if only Radio Canada engaged in journalism instead of operating under the assumption of a conspiracy fantasy.
It is astonishing to us that innocent believers protesting vicious slander and persecution without cause would have their outrage portrayed as some sort of well financed conspiracy. Radio Canada should know better.
Group slander, regrettably, has occurred in Quebec sometimes against francophones. When the francophone population in Quebec protests vociferously against this slander, as well they should, we do not see Radio Canada claiming that this public protest is a highly structured well financed campaign with funding and organization which do not match the actual resources deployed, and for good reason. But that reason is as good for the Falun Gong today.
3. The letter from Radio Canada mischaracterizes our concern, saying "simply asking question on the topic is analogous to denying the Holocaust". On the contrary, as we indicated in our letter, if Radio Canada had simply asked questions about whether or not the Falun Gong was a "highly structured" organization or had "no shortage of" money, we would have had no objections.
However, to start from those assumptions, without asking any questions and having no evidence, is regrettable in the extreme. Our complaint with Radio Canada is not for asking questions, but rather for not asking questions and proceeding by way of assumption.
While, obviously, some questions were asked, the gravamen of our complaint was that the questions which were asked were based on untenable and unexamined assumptions. It is a piece of sophistry on the part of Radio Canada, when we complain about reliance on assumptions in the framing of questions, to criticise our concern as if we were complaining about questioning itself.
Picking away at our letter in this way justifies describing Radio Canada the way Charles Talleyrand described the Bourbon monarchy. Reading our complaint, Radio Canada has forgotten nothing but also learned nothing.
4. The reference in the letter from Radio Canada to our report about organ harvesting seems to be arguing that there is room to question the conclusions in our report. But again, that was not the nature of our complaint. We would welcome honest debate about our report.
It is the distortions and assumptions to which we object. Radio Canada refers to their discussions with David Ownby, Harry Wu and an Amnesty International spokesperson. The gravamen of our complaint lies with Radio Canada and not with either David Ownby nor Harry Wu nor Amnesty International. We do feel that Harry Wu overreacted to the initial stories about Sujiatun prior to our report. We set out our concerns in Appendix 16 to the second version of our report which is accessible on our web site.
Our concern remains that Radio Canada distorted and twisted what David Ownby, Harry Wu and Amnesty International said. Nothing in the Radio Canada letter alleviates our concern about this distortion. Indeed, in the letter, these distortions continue.
In our letter, we had made a passing reference to what the UN Committee against Torture concluded. We wrote:
The Radio Canada letter quotes from the UN Committee against Torture's report.
The quoted statement includes these words
These words make the very point we were making.
Radio Canada though bolds the words "allegation" and "claim" elsewhere in their quoted excerpt from the Committee report as if to suggest that the Committee was contradicting in some way what we had said in our letter. Either Radio Canada misunderstood the point we were trying to make or they have been wilfully obtuse.
Letter from Radio Canada
Letter to Radio Canada on December 2nd