BEIJING – China on Thursday snubbed an apology from CNN over remarks by one of its commentators as a wave of verbal assaults on foreign media raised concerns over coverage at this summer's Beijing Olympics.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu rejected CNN's explanation that commentator Jack Cafferty was referring to China's leaders — not the Chinese people — when he described them as "goons and thugs." CNN said it apologized to anyone who thought otherwise.
But Jiang said at a regularly scheduled news conference that the CNN statement lacked sincerity and instead "turned its attack on the Chinese government to try to sow division between the Chinese government and the people."
The head of the ministry's information department summoned CNN's bureau chief in Beijing on Wednesday night to deliver a near identical protest.
CNN has been singled out by the Chinese government and unknown activists who have phoned and e-mailed death threats to Western reporters. Most of the criticism of the Atlanta-based network concerns a photograph posted on its Web site weeks ago which cropped out Tibetans throwing stones at Chinese security forces.
Chinese at home and abroad have heatedly accused Western media of biased coverage of violent anti-government protests in Tibet and across western China last month.
Numerous Web postings, YouTube videos and Facebook groups have criticized the Tibet news coverage, including a Web site called anti-cnn.com, which was set up especially to point out alleged media bias.
Anger has been further stirred by high-profile protests among Tibetans, free-speech advocates and others dogging the Beijing Olympic Torch's passage through London and Paris.
CNN and other foreign satellite broadcasts can be seen only in hotels, offices and housing developments open to foreigners, meaning very few Chinese would have heard Cafferty's original comments.
Censors also block many foreign news sites on the Internet, pointing to an underlying irony of the ongoing protests — that they profess outrage over foreign media reports that their government does not permit them to view.
The entirely state-controlled media has joined in the vilification campaign, with the criticisms of CNN featuring prominently in Thursday's newspapers and TV shows.
A signed editorial in the Communist Party's flagship People's Daily attacked what it called Cafferty's "verbal violence."
"When people wake up and face the facts, there will be no more market for 'information terrorism,'" the editorial said.
The vilification of Western media has renewed concerns about media controls during the Olympics, when thousands of foreign reporters are expected to be in Beijing to cover the August Games. Beijing has pledged to meet past standards for coverage, but has repeatedly violated those promises by detaining journalists and banning them from parts of the country.