At times, the propaganda campaign zeroed in on Mr. Sudworth, a longtime BBC correspondent who won a George Polk Award last year for his reporting on the internment camps in Xinjiang. The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China said on Wednesday that Chinese state media had posted videos of Mr. Sudworth online using footage obtained from police cameras.
Last month, The Global Times, a state-backed nationalist tabloid, published a widely circulated article attacking Mr. Sudworth for his Xinjiang reporting and accusing him of being an “anti-China” journalist backed by “foreign forces,” including the United States.
“In the past few years, the BBC and their China correspondent, John Sudworth, have been doing their best to demonize China as a cruel country without human rights by distorting the situation in Xinjiang,” said the article. “But today, their ‘crazy’ distortions have been exposed — the truth is that they are the clowns who violate human rights.”
Before the recent propaganda campaign, Mr. Sudworth had been repeatedly issued shortened journalist visas of as little as one month for nearly three years, part of an ongoing effort by the Chinese government to punish news organizations for coverage it perceives to be overly critical. Most resident foreign journalists are typically granted one-year visas.
In September, two Australian journalists fled China following a five-day diplomatic standoff that began when Chinese state security officers paid them unannounced visits, prompting fears that they would be detained. Australian news outlets now no longer have any correspondents on the ground in China at a time of fast-deteriorating relations between the two countries.
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China, whose members include many journalists working there, voiced concerns on Wednesday about the “increasing frequency of erroneous claims by Chinese state and state-controlled entities that foreign correspondents and their organizations are motivated by anti-China political forces to produce coverage that runs counter to the Communist Party’s official line.”
“Alarmingly, Chinese authorities have also shown a greater willingness to threaten journalists with legal measures, proceedings that could subject them to exit bans, barring them from leaving China,” the club added.
LONDON — It started last week when the host of the BBC’s morning show mocked a cabinet minister, Robert Jenrick, for the Union Jack hanging conspicuously behind him, next to a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. The flag, the host cracked, was not “up to standard-size government interview measurements.”
The host, Charlie Stayt, and his co-host, Naga Munchetty, who chuckled along, were quickly in hot water. After the BBC came under fire for disrespecting the British flag, both were reprimanded. Ms. Munchetty apologized for liking “offensive” Twitter posts that joined in the mockery of the minister’s flag.
Never one to duck a culture-war skirmish, the Conservative government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson has seized on the flag flap to try to keep opponents on the defensive and the dissolution of the United Kingdom at bay.
On Wednesday, it decreed that, henceforth, the Union Jack should fly on all government buildings every day of the year, rather than simply on designated days. The only exception will be regional holidays when, say, the Scottish flag, the Saltire, would fly in Scotland on St. Andrew’s Day.
revised guidance on flags, noted that in the United States, the Stars and Stripes flies year-round, not just on federal buildings but also at schools and in front of polling places. Likewise in Australia, the national flag can be flown every day of the year from federal and state parliaments.
Britons tend to be less demonstrative about their flag than the citizens of their former colonies. Unlike Americans, they rarely hang it in front of their homes. The Union Jack arouses ambivalent emotions among some on the left, who associate it with Britain’s imperial past, and in parts of the United Kingdom, particularly Scotland, where pro-independence feelings run strong.
That, of course, is precisely the point for a government that is desperate to avert another referendum on independence for Scotland after elections there in May in which the Scottish National Party is expected to win a strong mandate.
was taken to task by a Conservative lawmaker, James Wild, for not publishing an image of the Union Jack in the broadcaster’s 268-page annual report.
“Do you find that surprising?” Mr. Wild asked, to which Mr. Davie replied, “No, I think that’s a strange metric.”
A former marketing executive who was chosen because of his ability to get along with the government, Mr. Davie pointed out that the BBC promotes Britain worldwide. The Union Jack, he said, flew proudly from its London headquarters.
Critics on Twitter lost no time lampooning the new reverence for the flag. They coined an off-color hashtag and attributed it to unhealthy nationalism, post-Brexit insecurity or cynical politics.
“This may be very ‘20th Century’ of me,” posted Simon Fraser, formerly the senior civil servant at the Foreign Office, “but I do worry when politicians start getting obsessive about flags.”
Clare Hepworth, a trade unionist, quoted Bill Moyers, a broadcaster and former aide to President Lyndon B. Johnson, who once said of politicians who brandish flags, “They’re counting on your patriotism to distract you from their plunder.”
And, of course, it was another Johnson, Samuel, who in the 18th century famously said, “patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”
At a time when the government is winning broad public support for its coronavirus vaccine rollout — the country’s largest mass mobilization since World War II — a manufactured row over flags might seem unnecessary.
proposing to air two beloved patriotic songs without their lyrics because they evoked a colonial past that is at odds with the values of the Black Lives Matter movement.
outfitted at a reported cost of 2.6 million pounds, or about $3.5 million. He will be flanked by no fewer than four Union Jacks.
LONDON—Days after the British police were criticized for breaking up a vigil held for a woman kidnapped and killed earlier this month, the U.K. government proposed legislation mandating prison sentences of up to 10 years for demonstrators causing “serious annoyance,” prompting questions over whether the state is eroding civil liberties.
Police in the U.K. were accused of being insensitive after handcuffing women at a gathering on Saturday to commemorate the life of Sarah Everard, who was abducted while walking home in London on March 3.
A police officer was charged with her kidnap and murder after the 33-year-old marketing executive’s remains were found in a woodland. During a vigil in her memory in a London park, four arrests were made after the gathering contravened Covid-19 restrictions, the police said.
The weekend actions have focused attention on a part of wide-ranging legislation that appears aimed at thwarting protests such as those mounted last year in support of Black Lives Matter, in which statues were toppled, and by the Extinction Rebellion environmental movement that caused widespread disruption.
The legislation, which was debated in Parliament on Monday, has been months in the making, but the 300-page bill was published only last week.
The opposition Labour Party has said it would vote against the proposals, with the shadow justice secretary, David Lammy, saying the bill could lead to “harsher penalties for damaging a statue than for attacking a woman.”
Clauses in the law would allow police to impose conditions on protests that are noisy or cause “serious unease” to people who witness them.
This significantly lowers the legal test that must be met to for police to issue restrictions on the protest, according to a U.K. parliamentary briefing on the law. The government is also proposing changing laws to make being deemed a “public nuisance” punishable with up to 10 years in jail and an unlimited fine.
A major worry is that the government could use the law to maintain restrictions on civil liberties that it acquired during the pandemic, said Rosalind Comyn, policy manager at the National Council for Civil Liberties, an advocacy group in the U.K.
“What the events of the weekend have shown is that attacks on protest rights are an attack on women’s rights or anyone who wants to stand up to power,” she said.
The U.K. minister of state for crime and policing at the Home Office, Kit Malthouse, said the new law’s sentencing would be limited if protesters damaged an item that was worth less than £5,000, the equivalent of about $7,000. One aim of the law is to stop people defacing memorials and other culturally sensitive sites, he added.
In Britain, rape can lead to a sentence of between four and 19 years in custody, according to Britain’s Sentencing Council. When asked by the British Broadcasting Corp. why someone could get more time in jail for defacing a statue than committing rape, Mr. Malthouse said, “That is a matter for judges…the maximum sentence is much greater than that.”
Ms. Everard’s death triggered an outpouring of anger from women across the U.K. Many took to social media to recount their own experiences of harassment and abuse, and some held online vigils.
A reopened government consultation on Violence Against Women & Girls has received 78,000 submissions since Friday. On Monday evening, Prime Minister Boris Johnson presided over a government task force to discuss further steps to protect women and girls.
A wider review of the criminal-justice system and how it treats victims of rape is expected later this year. In July, the Crown Prosecution Service said the number of rape prosecutions in England and Wales in the second quarter of 2020 fell by 34% from the period a year earlier.
The government announced an inquiry into the police’s handling of the vigil but pushed back against calls for the head of London’s Metropolitan Police to resign. However, Mr. Johnson said he was “deeply concerned” by the footage of police dragging women away and trampling flowers at the event. The episode has sparked further protests, including one in London’s Parliament Square on Monday that blocked traffic on a nearby bridge.
“This government absolutely supports freedom of expression,” Home Secretary Priti Patel said Monday.
The bill is aimed at updating laws from the late 1980s to alter sentences for a range of offenses, while also giving police more powers to control mass gatherings and protests. This followed the 2019 Extinction Rebellion protests that brought much of central London to a halt when demonstrators trying to raise awareness about climate change camped on streets and set up barricades.
“In recent years we have seen a significant change in protest tactics which have led to disproportionate amounts of disruption,” the government said in a statement, adding that the new laws don’t undermine freedom of expression.
As the ruling Conservative Party has an ample majority in the House of Commons, the law is expected to be passed. The upper house, the House of Lords, could still amend the law and put it back in front of lawmakers.
However, the bill has united libertarian and civil-rights activists in condemnation. A number of pro- and anti-Brexit campaigners, some of whose supporters frequently marched outside Parliament in recent years, jointly wrote to the government accusing it of the “words and actions of authoritarians.”
With the end of the pandemic, protests may spring up as economic reality sets in, Ms. Comyn said: “We could see a wave of activism and it is very tempting to broaden police powers.”
The opportunity for a new era in British television begins in the studios of LBC, a radio station that has tested, and effectively stretched, the British legal requirements that broadcast news be “balanced.” Instead of offering down-the-middle recitations of news developments, the network serves up clashing and sometimes strident debates over issues. The station thrived during the long run-up to Brexit, making clear to broadcasters that they could abandon their starchy customs and reflect more partisan passions — as long as the stations didn’t embrace just one political side.
Now, television is poised to fill the space that LBC opened. The most ambitious player in this new arena may be Andrew Neil, a Scot who transformed The Sunday Times for Mr. Murdoch in the 1980s before emerging as one of the BBC’s most formidable interviewers. He’s a conservative, but his style shares almost nothing with his right-wing American counterparts, who alternate between tossing coddling questions to Republican politicians and obliterating obscure liberals who have foolishly wandered onto their sets. Mr. Neil is an equal opportunity interrogator, and may be best known in the United States for a hoisting in 2019 of the conservative figure Ben Shapiro. In the 2019 British election, the Tory prime minister Boris Johnson refused to submit to an interview with him.
I reached Mr. Neil at his home in the French Riviera, where he has been weathering the pandemic and preparing the start of a new 24-hour cable channel network, GB News, this spring. When I called, he was watching “MSNBC Live with Craig Melvin.” “I think there are things to learn from it in terms of programming, and the visuals are very strong,” he said of the left-leaning American channel. “In terms of formatting and style, I think MSNBC and Fox are the two templates we’re following.”
Mr. Neil has raised 60 million pounds (about $83 million) to start the channel, including investments from the American giant Discovery and the hedge fund manager Paul Marshall. (Mr. Marshall’s son, unrelatedly, is taking time off from playing banjo in the band Mumford and Sons to “examine my blind spots” after praising a far right book on Twitter.) Mr. Neil said he expected that sum to last the network at least three years, though it’s a pittance by the standards of American cable news.
He said he planned to hire some 100 journalists, a fraction of the more than 2,000 at the BBC, but aimed to capture the resentment of the London-centric media by having many of them broadcast from their hometowns in the north. The channel will rely on other news services for its breaking news, he said, and focus its resources on producing American-style, personality-driven news shows. But he said he wouldn’t follow the American right into outlandish conspiracy theories, and he has denounced Donald Trump’s claim that he won the U.S. election.
“I don’t think there’s an appetite in Britain for ridiculous conflict,” Mr. Neil said. Still, he plans to carry a segment on his own prime-time show called “woke watch” in which he can mock what he sees as progressive excesses. He cited as an example a recent report that British nurses were told they could use the word “chestfeeding” rather than “breastfeeding” to be inclusive of transgender people.
LONDON—Just over a year after Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced they would step away from Britain’s royal family and move to North America, the couple is embarking on a public relations blitz that will underscore the delicate balance they will need to strike between emphasizing their connections to the monarchy while no longer officially being part of it.
On Sunday, the couple are expected to explain why they quit front-line British royalty in a prime-time interview with Oprah Winfrey.
The lengthy celebrity interview, on television and streaming Sunday at 8.p.m. ET on CBS, marks the culmination of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s effort to take control of how their life is portrayed in the media and bolster what appears, so far, to be a rare example of British royals successfully exiting what is known as “The Firm” to make big money.
But tensions with their former employer are growing. On Wednesday, Buckingham Palace said it is probing allegations made in the U.K. newspaper the Times of London that the Duchess of Sussex bullied aides while working there. The Duchess of Sussex denies this.
Meanwhile, a teaser clip of the Oprah interview shows the duchess accusing the palace of “perpetuating falsehoods” about her and Prince Harry. “If that comes with risk of losing things, I mean there’s a lot that has been lost already,” she says.
An unseemly public spat risks tarnishing the monarchy and in turn the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s nascent brand, says Rita Clifton, a former chairwoman of branding consulting firm Interbrand. “Like any branded relationship you want to make sure both are valuable and you don’t want your association to be killing the golden goose,” she says.
Initially, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex tried to keep a foot in the royal family. They trademarked the brand “Sussex Royal” and hoped to emulate other minor royals who keep their military titles and undertake some royal functions while holding down jobs. But officials at Buckingham Palace said no. The Sussex Royal brand was dropped and, last month, all formal ties were severed.
This total split came as a blow to the Sussexes, according to officials. But it may prove a commercial boon for the couple, who are now free to leverage their royal background without interference from Buckingham Palace, says David McLure, who has published several books on the British royalty’s finances.
After moving to Montecito in California last year, the Sussexes created Archewell Audio LLC and Archewell Productions LLC to create audio and video content. They also founded an Archewell foundation to support their charity work.
They have signed an agreement to create content for Netflix Inc. and another to present podcasts for Spotify Technology SA . The multiyear deal with Netflix is worth in the region of $100 million, according to people familiar with the matter
They are signed by the Harry Walker Agency to do speaking engagements. The terms of those contracts aren’t public. The couple no longer receive a stipend from Prince Harry’s father, Prince Charles, or funds from U.K. taxpayers.
The Sussexes could become a billion-dollar entity over the next decade if they chose to endorse products such as cosmetics or clothing, says David Haigh, the chief executive of Brand Finance PLC, a British brand-valuation company.
But much depends on whether the content they produce for Netflix or Spotify is popular and if they can stay on good terms with Queen Elizabeth, he says. “They would make more big money if the whole thing was done in an amicable way.”
So far, the couple are playing a cautious hand. They appeared at a conference run by JPMorgan Chase & Co. in Miami last year. The Duchess of Sussex recently narrated a Disney nature documentary about elephants, a project she started before leaving the royal duties. A Spotify podcast just after Christmas featured the couple’s son, Archie. The duchess has invested in an instant-coffee brand.
The closest they came to controversy was a Prince Harry video appeal before the U.S. election for people to reject “hate speech, misinformation and negativity,” which some commentators saw as an aside against then-President Donald Trump and a violation of the royal family’s longstanding political neutrality. Prince Harry’s advisers denied it was.
“The palace will be worried,” says Mr. McLure. If you quit the British royal family “you still have the royal glitter on your shoulders whether you like it or not. So you will monetize links to the monarchy and you will be potentially embarrassing to the monarchy.”
Last month the couple said that they remained “committed to their duty and service to the U.K. and around the world” and advisers play down the idea that they would do anything that is not in keeping with these values.
The British monarchy is littered with examples of royals trying to go private. Queen Elizabeth’s youngest son, Prince Edward, launched a TV-production company that later shut down. His wife Sophie, Countess of Wessex, ran a public-relations business but was caught on tape making critical comments about Prince Charles.
More traumatizing was the queen’s uncle, the Duke of Windsor, who abdicated as king in 1936 to marry a divorced American. To supplement his royal stipend the Duke of Windsor later sold his memoirs and appeared in several magazine interviews. He ended his days living in exile just south of Paris. Other extended members of the family have also cashed in. The queen’s eldest grandson once fronted an ad campaign to sell milk in China.
Royal interviews going wrong are also a staple. The queen’s second son, Prince Andrew, had to step down following a botched interview in 2019 where he tried to explain his friendship with the deceased sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Royal observers questioned the wisdom of interviews in which Prince Harry’s parents, Prince Charles and Princess Diana, talked about their failed marriage.
Prince Harry has said a major motivation for leaving the U.K. was to get away from the media. Princess Diana died in 1997 in a car crash while being followed by paparazzi.
After Prince Harry married Meghan Markle in 2018, the couple struggled with the level of intrusion into their private life and how the palace managed the British press, according to one official. In the U.S., they hope to find a more respectful media, according to one person familiar with their thinking.
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Last week, the prince appeared on James Corden’s “The Late Late Show” where he was interviewed on a double-decker bus touring Los Angeles before crawling through mud at a military assault course. Prince Harry played down his decision to split with the monarch. “It was stepping back rather than stepping down,” he said. The prince said the British press were destroying his mental health. In leaving the country, “I did what any husband [or] father would do,” he said.
On the same day as the interview with Ms. Winfrey, Queen Elizabeth will also be on the airwaves. The queen and her immediate family, including her two direct heirs Prince Charles and Prince William, will mark “Commonwealth Day”— celebrating a club of nations that were mostly in the British Empire—and pay tribute to those countries’ handling of the pandemic. Buckingham Palace officials say the timing of the special program on the British Broadcasting Corp. is pure coincidence.
The BBC has issued an apology and started an investigation after airing an interview with a man who posed as Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey.
The network said in a statement that the unidentified man was interviewed on the “Newshour” radio program last Friday, adding that the appearance appeared to have been a “deliberate hoax.”
The statement said that the BBC had apologized to Mr. Booker and that the company was looking into “what went wrong” to ensure it does not happen again.
The interview aired once, live at 3 p.m. Eastern and mostly in the United States and a few other places around the world, a spokesman for the BBC said on Thursday. A second edition of “Newshour,” which airs at 4 p.m., was also broadcast in the United States and around the world, but without the interview, he said.
one woman said.
At least one other person responded directly to the BBC on Twitter, saying, “I’m not sure who the BBC World Service just interviewed on Newshour about US relations with Saudi Arabia, but it definitely was not Senator Cory Booker.”
Mr. Booker, a Democrat, is no stranger to the topic the impostor spoke about. In 2019 he voted in support of resolutions disapproving arm sales to Saudi Arabia. The year before, Mr. Booker called the death of Mr. Khashoggi “appalling” and said he joined colleagues on the Foreign Relations Committee to seek sanctions against anyone involved in the “horrific” act.
Stories of pranksters and impersonators finagling their way into news programs are not uncommon.
Last December, an animal-rights activist pretending to be the chief executive of Smithfield Foods conducted an interview with Maria Bartiromo, the host of the Fox Business show “Mornings With Maria.” At the end of the broadcast, Ms. Bartiromo issued a public correction saying, “It appears we have been punked.”