Minnesota Newspaper Publishes Practitioners' Response to Defamatory Article

On August 12th, 2005, The Star Tribune [Minnesota, USA] published an article called "Misleading story hurt Falun Gong" in the "Commentary" section of the newspaper. http://www.clearwisdom.net/emh/articles/2005/8/13/63891.html) The article was written in response to a Beijing propaganda article appropriated by the Associated Press called "Falun Gong Followers Renounce Group," published in many American media outlets in January. The article was viewed controversially because it did not give an accurate depiction of Falun Gong and the events of the so-called "self-immolation." Falun Gong is accepted and proclaimed by over 50 countries world-wide and that the international community views the "self-immolation" as a staged event used by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to incite hatred against Falun Gong and justify its brutal persecution of Falun Gong.

The defamatory propaganda article was suitable in a very stylistic way, as it appeared to be balanced, and many newspapers saw it as balanced. But, like many "Westernised" articles, it started and ended with a positive view of the CCP and a negative view of Falun Gong. The problem with the "positive view of the CCP" is that they is based on an extreme hoax. The premise of the article was that Western media were interviewing a "reformed" Falun Gong practitioner who tried to set himself on fire in 2001. In the article, everything he said was a lie and orchestrated by the CCP. Amnesty International, International Education Development (IED), and the United Nations on Human Rights have all acknowledged that the "self-immolation" was staged. Falun Gong practitioners are taught not to kill, as they follow the principle of compassion. How could this person be a Falun Gong practitioner?

The rebuttal article, written by Minnesota Falun Gong practitioners, "clarifies the facts" about Falun Gong, the "self-immolation," the CCP, the international community's stance on these issues, and the current situation regarding overseas persecution and the fate of the CCP. The article is written in a concise, accurate, and eloquent manner. Since the defamatory propaganda article was published nationwide, it has poisoned countless minds of Americans unfamiliar with Falun Gong. Also, the CCP has re-printed the article in mainland Chinese newspapers to make the people believe that the Western world has the same stance on Falun Gong. This response article is unprecedented, and the The Star Tribune is the first newspaper to publish an article which refutes the propaganda and clarifies the truth about what happened and the current situation.

However, to achieve this we had to go through a long six-month process. Minnesota practitioners began contacting The Star Tribune immediately after the defamatory article was published on January 22. Two weeks later we had our first meeting with representatives of the newspaper. However, we were constantly met with interference. The two representatives had nothing to do with the article. Furthermore, they did not treat us respectfully, refusing to listen to our comments and requests. They said that they trust that the AP uses accurate information.

About a week later, a University of Minnesota professor wrote a letter to the editor, which was both accurate and credible with third-party investigative facts. We requested another meeting the following week, but our request was rejected. A little more than two weeks after this, Minnesota practitioners sent out another letter with more detailed information about the truth. Moreover, we requested that the newspaper conduct an independent investigation of these incidents, offer an official apology letter with corrections, publish an article detailing the truth behind the "self-immolation," and also stop reporting false information about Falun Gong.

In regards to this issue, we made several contacts with State Senators. Senator Mark Dayton was especially supportive of this issue, as well as many other Falun Gong related issues. He suggested that we file a complaint with the State Attorney General. In turn, the State Attorney General's office advised us to file a complaint with the Minnesota News Council.

The Minnesota News Council is a public service "designed to promote fairness in the news media by giving members of the public who feel damaged by a news story an opportunity to hold the news organisation." The organisation sent a letter to the editor at The Star Tribune telling him that if the paper could not resolve our complaint by June 13th, they would conduct a public hearing on August 18th.

The Star Tribune set up a meeting with two staff members: a managing editor and the assistant managing editor that chose the article. Although our complaint was supposed to be resolved by June 13th, we were unable to have a meeting until June 22nd. We were met with more interference, as the assistant managing editor went on personal leave on June 11th.

The meeting went reasonably well. We gave them the video "False Fire," provided them with the Epoch Times newspaper reporting on CCP defector Chen Yonglin, and clarified the truth about Falun Gong. Both sides listened to each other respectively, but the newspaper still held that they would not issue a public apology or correction. A resolution was agreed upon, and Minnesota practitioners feel that it is a step in the right direction for them to publish the article, "Misleading article hurt Falun Gong."

The whole process was a long one, and we encountered much interference and resistance. We are grateful for the help of the public officials and The Minnesota News Council.

The publishing of the recent response article may convince other newspapers to follow this example. Practitioners from other states can contact organisations like The Minnesota News Council to put legal pressure on newspapers that published this propaganda article.

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