Several French media took up an article from Le Monde claiming that a journalist had been invented by the Chinese public media CGTN. But Le Figaro found the journalist, who said she was “scared […] that one can affirm that I do not exist ”.
By denouncing an alleged fake news, The world has, it seems, created a real (fake news). The French daily questioned on March 31 in an article the veracity of a testimony published three days earlier on the French site of Chinese public television CGTN.
Under the pseudonym of Laurène Beaumond, a Frenchwoman who “worked in various Parisian editorial offices before settling her bags in Beijing where she lived for almost seven years” gives her point of view on the genocide accusations brought against Beijing concerning the Uighur minority. “So what is this parody of a lawsuit being made against China from a distance, without any concrete proof, without any valid testimony, by individuals who have never set foot in this region of the world” , writes Laurène Beaumond in this column titled “” My “Xinjiang: stop the tyranny of fake news”.
In a note preceding the tribune, the CGTN-Français website presents her as “an independent journalist based in France, with a double degree in art history and archeology at the University of the Sorbonne-IV and holder of ‘a Master of Journalism’, while specifying that “the article reflects the opinions of the author, and not necessarily those of CGTN-Français”. A second column by Laurène Beaumond was also published on March 31 on the site of Radio Chine International, another public medium. The text this time castigates the scheduled visit of French parliamentarians to Taiwan.
Too quick an accusation of the World
From this name, The world tried to locate the journalist by searching the internet and in the archives of the press card. A dead end, obviously, since “Laurène Beaumond” is a pseudonym. However, the daily quickly concluded that “Laurène Beaumond does not exist”. “Unknown, officially, to the battalion. The world was able to verify that no person of this name appears in the file of the Commission of the identity card of French professional journalists ”, explains the French daily, quoting a researcher of the Foundation for strategic research, Antoine Bondaz, who speaks of “false profiles posing as journalists based in France”.
I dare not imagine that @CGTNFrench who has just obtained the authorization by the @csaudiovisual to broadcast in France publishes articles on Xinjiang written by fake profiles posing as journalists based in France, such as “Laurène Beaumond” https://t.co/XNVB87YaWE
– Antoine Bondaz (@AntoineBondaz) March 31, 2021
Other French media have picked up on the conclusion of the World, like BFMTV, which speaks of an “imaginary French journalist” and “invented from scratch”, and France Info, which evokes “a fake French journalist [utilisée par la Chine] to spread its propaganda ”.
Problem: Laurène Beaumond does exist. A correspondent of Figaro in Asia was able to contact the person hiding under this assumed name, and published his testimony on the evening of April 2. Forty-year-old from Sarthe and former translator and presenter for the Chinese channel in Beijing, she emphasizes taking on her platform “from A to Z” and having offered it herself to CGTN on March 24. “I am worried about my safety. I am appalled by the baseness of the attacks on my signature, and that it can be said that I do not exist, ”she adds. She assures that she never imagined that her text could cause such a stir: “You will take me for a delighted child, but I let myself be overtaken by the thing”, she specifies to the Figaro, adding that she will no longer use this pseudonym.
I wonder who is really producing fake news?
Before the testimony broadcast by Le Figaro, Release had also published on April 2 an article on this affair, however much less affirmative than The world, BFMTV and France Info regarding a possible manipulation. The newspaper’s CheckNews service explained on the contrary having “identified a person whose profile corresponds, in part, to that of Laurène Beaumond”. “This is a French journalist, graduated from the Sorbonne in the corresponding subjects, who worked in at least one Parisian editorial office before becoming a news presenter for a Chinese state channel. We also find his signature in a note sent to a local newspaper from Beijing in 2015 ”, developed Release.
CGTN had already reacted on April 1 by explaining that “the use of another name can often allow a freer expression and without constraints, and not only in the journalistic field, but also in historical frameworks like the Resistance during the Second World War”. A spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the same day that “The world asserted, without rigorous verification, that this person “does not exist” and was “invented” by the French channel of CGTN “. “I wonder who is really producing fake news? This reflects the unhealthy thinking of some countries and media, which believe that anything that is not in accordance with their imagination and their supposed values and ideologies must be false, ”said spokeswoman Hua Chunying.
If some Western media continue to put ideology above truth, it will only lead to shattered credibility. #China has always been and will continue to be committed to facilitating and helping foreign journalists in their reporting work in China.
– Hua Chunying 华春莹 (@SpokespersonCHN) April 1, 2021
This controversy comes as the CGTN channel received in early March the authorization of the French audiovisual regulator, the CSA, to broadcast in France. For their part, despite the publication of the article in Figaro, The world, France Info and BFMTV have not withdrawn their claims.