US media is reporting that China is laundering its propaganda in the Czech Republic through local ‘alternative media’ disinformation outlets showing how China increasingly customizes its message to local audiences. According to a report by The Diplomat:
April 30, 2021 As covered by the recent report of Czech Denik N, there appears to be some form of cooperation between the Czech version of China Radio International (CRI) and a prominent Czech “alternative” website, AC24. Since at least October 2020, dozens of anonymous articles have appeared on the website of CRI, obviously written by local Czech authors. In most cases, articles first appear on CRI, to be republished shortly after on the AC24 website itself, suggesting that they are primarily written for CRI use. While no author is identified on either of the sites, one can find the name of Ondrej Gersl, the founder and owner of AC24, under some of the articles that have subsequently been translated and published on the Chinese-language CRI website. […]
The articles covered the usual topics of Chinese propaganda: highlighting China’s economic growth and technological achievements, lauding its fight against poverty, and positively reflecting on China’s role on the global stage, while attacking the United States and the West at large. A prominent topic has been the situation in Xinjiang, with articles dismissing criticism of China’s policy against Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities there.
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The report notes that by utilizing the Czech alternative media outlet AC24, China not only gains access to already established local audiences but can also point at positive coverage in Czech media, hiding its origin as “ghost-written” Chinese propaganda. In the last few years, China has increasingly cooperated with or amplified fringe media outlets in the West that align with China’s foreign policy objectives.