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A letter to NBC Universal about news coverage during the Beijing Olympics

Telling the truth about the Uyghur genocide

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February 4, 2022

Editor’s Note: On Jan. 20, 2022, the ERLC sent a letter to the CEO of NBC Universal, Jeff Shell, calling for accurate coverage during the Beijing Olympics of the Chinese Communist Party’s gross and ongoing human rights violations, particularly the genocide of the Uyghur people. In light of the opening ceremonies and coverage that has already been problematic, we urge NBC and other media outlets to tell the truth about the CCP and to help inform the wider public of these ongoing travesties. The CCP cannot be allowed to use the world stage to showcase a false version of itself and to cover up a genocide.

Dear Mr. Shell,

As you are no doubt aware, there is an ongoing genocide taking place in China. Countless stories have been written about the plight of the Uyghur people who are being brutally oppressed by the Chinese government. Unfortunately, as we have seen most recently with the callous comments from Mr. Chamath Palihapitiya, too many Americans are either unaware of the severity of the situation or indifferent about the treatment of a religious minority across the globe. I am writing to you today because I believe you have a unique opportunity to provide real-time information that could help reveal the truth to millions of people across the globe.

To do that, I would respectfully appeal that NBC use its unique position as a broadcaster of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics to highlight the ongoing human rights abuses and genocide of the Uyghur people happening in China and firmly refuse to broadcast Chinese propaganda.

Since 2017, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has waged a systematic war of persecution against the Uyghur people, a predominantly Turkic-speaking ethnic group in Xinjiang. Uyghurs are subjected to totalitarian tactics that include pervasive surveillance, forced detainment and placement into internment camps for “political reeducation,” forced labor, forced birth control, sterilization or abortion, rape, physical and psychological torture, and forced organ harvesting. Estimates vary, but experts believe that China has detained between one million and three million Uyghur people in these facilities.

These actions have been labeled as an ongoing genocide by both the Trump and Biden administrations, respectively. In June 2021, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), America’s largest Protestant denomination with more than 14.5 million members and a network of over 50,000 cooperating churches and congregations, unanimously passed a resolution rightly calling what’s happening to the Uyghurs a genocide. The SBC was the first denomination to pass such a resolution.

We should all be clear-eyed about this global event. The Chinese government would love nothing more than to use these Winter Games as an opportunity to hide these human rights abuses and lie to the world about the treatment of the Uyghurs. The Chinese Communist Party cannot be allowed to use the world stage to showcase a false version of itself and to cover up a genocide.

NBC has a unique opportunity and responsibility to correctly reframe what viewers are seeing and provide context to the ongoing abuses in China that are happening outside of the Games. Because NBC has its own cameras and crew, you alone are able to showcase protests that might be happening, cut away from Chinese propaganda that is being shown, and provide com- mentary that contextualizes and accurately reports on what viewers are seeing. In the moments that cannot be appropriately shown to viewers, NBC should broadcast documented reports of China’s abuses.

This will be especially important in the opening and closing ceremonies, where China will likely attempt to portray itself as a hospitable nation to all and inappropriately highlight the cultures of ethnic and religious minorities. It is in these moments that NBC must be prepared with the truth and be ready to make a bold stand for human rights.

Mr. Shell, you understand the importance of this global event. Millions of viewers will be tuned in to see world-class athletes compete against one another with the hope of earning a medal for their country. But, in the backdrop of these Games, is an ongoing atrocity the host government would rather be ignored. Resist those efforts. NBC should be on the side of truth and not allow itself to become the international propaganda arm of the Chinese Communist Party.

Respectfully,

Brent Leatherwood
Acting President
Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission               

Further resources:

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Brent Leatherwood

Brent Leatherwood serves as the President for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Since September 2021, Brent served as the Acting President of the ERLC, where he provided steady leadership for the organization’s staff and continued the mission of the ERLC during the interim period. Prior to serving as Acting … Read More