The Mail Online came under fire on Friday after it emerged it was conducting a copy-swapping scheme with China’s state media.
Since March 2015, the company has, without ceremony, featured stories from the People’s Daily of China, an arrangement Guardian columnist Roy Greenslade dubbed a "propaganda coup for China" before questioning how “the partnership between a capitalist media group renowned for its advocacy of press freedom and a newspaper in a communist country renowned for censorship come about?"
Mail Online publisher Martin Clarke issued a response to Greenslade in a letter provided to The Drum stating that the partnership is a copy-swap, in which around 40 stories a week are passed between the publications. No cash changes hands he added.
On the partnership Clarke said: “As the most populous nation on earth and one of its most dynamic economies China is an increasing source of stories for outward-looking global publishers like MOL. We believe this relationship broadens our coverage there and also helps us better understand the country's social and political structures.
“We are not limited to using The People's Daily as a source for Chinese coverage nor does it compromise MOL's (or our papers') independence of coverage of that region or the world in general in any way.”
The stories are reportedly selected and translated by a Mandarin-speaking MOL staffer at the Mail's foreign desk. Clarke added that “we have always found the People's Daily staff to be extremely good partners and look forward to continuing this relationship in the longer term".
He concluded: “In the context of the British (and every other western) government's official policy to foster closer cultural and trade ties with China this modest arrangement does not seem remotely odd, merely sensible.”