In a fiery open letter addressed to his readers and dealing with NBC News, Stephen Gregory, the publisher of The Epoch Times, accused two NBC News reporters of asking questions that he deemed wildly out of bounds. Gregory stated, “The NBC reporters questioned the religious beliefs of some of our staff members, sought to discredit their beliefs, attacked our journalism based on personal opinion rather than objective analysis, and even sought out information on the personal lives of our staff.”
After noting that he was defending “journalism itself,” Gregory stated that the founders of The Epoch Times “personally experienced the horrors of communism in China.” He added, “Ten of our staff members were arrested in China and given prison terms ranging from three to 10 years.”
Gregory continued, “NBC’s questions seek to dig out what they assume is our agenda by asking about our coverage of President Donald Trump and our relationship with the spiritual practice of Falun Gong.”
Gregory noted that NBC News has been hostile to President Trump, noting, “A study by Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy found that NBC’s coverage of Trump’s first 100 days in office was 93 percent negative.”
Then Gregory segued to the questions NBC had allegedly been firing at ex-staff members of the Epoch Times, including, “Is the Epoch Times predominantly staffed by volunteers? Do some Epoch Times interns, volunteers, or employees live in a shared home?” He commented, “What bearing do individuals’ living arrangements have on the journalism of The Epoch Times? Would NBC ask New York Times journalists if they share an apartment? This digging into private lives can have only one motivation: to find something that can be used to discredit The Epoch Times.”
One alleged question ran like this: “It seems that all or most of the Epoch Times reporters and editors and executives are also Falun Gong practitioners. How does the practice of Falun Gong inform or influence the Epoch Times’ coverage?” NBC allegedly doubled down with this question:
One former Epoch Times executive and practitioner claims that Falun Gong practitioners believe that the world will soon see a “weeding out process” that will pit those who are sympathetic to Falun Dafa against those who are sympathetic to the Chinese government. Is this a fair characterization? And does the Epoch Times editorial staff believe this?
The Epoch Times is not funded by Falun Gong practitioners, nor does it speak for Falun Gong practitioners. That said, The Epoch Times sees the Chinese Communist Party’s persecution of Falun Gong practitioners, and the remarkable and heroic ways in which practitioners have responded to that persecution, as one of the most underreported stories of the last 20 years. Our founders included Falun Gong practitioners, and our values of “Truth and Tradition” reflect their moral principles.
Our free press has special privileges in our society, as suggested by the term “The Fourth Estate.” In order to defend those privileges, the press must show it is acting in a responsible manner. In responding to NBC, The Epoch Times seeks to vindicate our media and, in doing so, the role the press should play in our society.
Former Canadian MP David Kilgour noted in April 2015 in a report to the European Parliament Workshop on Organ Harvesting In China:
In May 2006 the Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong in China (CIPFG) asked David Matas and me as volunteers to investigate the claims of organ pillaging/trafficking from Falun Gong practitioners. We released two reports and one book and have continued to investigate this issue … We concluded that for 41,500 transplants done in the years 2000-2005 alone in China, the only plausible explanation for sourcing was Falun Gong.
Our main conclusion reads that there “continues today to be large-scale organ seizures from unwilling Falun Gong practitioners (…) Their vital organs, including kidneys, livers, corneas and hearts, were seized involuntarily for sale at high prices, sometimes to foreigners, who normally face long waits for voluntary donations of such organs in their home countries.”
The seminal 2014 book, The Slaughter (Prometheus), by Ethan Gutmann places the persecution of the Falun Gong, Tibetan, Uyghur, and House Christian communities in context. It focuses mostly on Falun Gong, the group most viciously and continuously targeted since 1999.
Gutmann explains how he arrives at his “best estimate” that organs of 65,000 Falun Gong and “two to four thousand” Uyghurs, Tibetans and House Christians were “harvested” in the 2000-2008 period alone. No “donors” survive pillaging because all vital organs are removed to be trafficked for high prices to wealthy Chinese nationals and “organ tourists.”