Pressured by China, E.U. Softens Report on Covid-19 Disinformation

A revised report shows how Beijing reacts swiftly and effectively to tamp down Western criticism of its pandemic response.

The New York Times
Date: April 24, 2020
By: Matt Apuzzo

A Chinese flag on a billboard in Serbia last month.Credit…Marko Djurica/Reuters

BRUSSELS — Bowing to heavy pressure from Beijing, European Union officials softened their criticism of China this week in a report documenting how governments push disinformation about the coronavirus pandemic, according to documents, emails and interviews.

Worried about the repercussions, European officials first delayed and then rewrote the document in ways that diluted the focus on China, a vital trading partner — taking a very different approach than the confrontational stance adopted by the Trump administration.

The initial European Union report, obtained by The New York Times, was not particularly strident: a routine roundup of publicly available information and news reports.

It cited Beijing’s efforts to curtail mentions of the virus’s origins in China, in part by blaming the United States for spreading the disease internationally. It noted that Beijing had criticized France as slow to respond to the pandemic and had pushed false accusations that French politicians used racist slurs against the head of the World Health Organization. The report also highlighted Russian efforts to promote false health information and sow distrust in Western institutions.  [FULL  STORY]

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