Location, Location, Location Execution, Execution, Execution

Some time ago I did an interview for Amnesty about how China reportedly harvests the organs of executed prisoners. I remember it well because the pre-recorded interview was for the BBC 10 O Clock News – much coveted – and because when I came to watch the programme I found that my carefully crafted answers had not been used.


Instead the BBC had its man in Beijing saying very much the same things as me, live by satellite.


It struck me at the time that this demonstrated one of the peculiarities of television news. It’s all about location, location, location! Never mind that what we ended up with here was two BBC journalists speaking to each other, rather than an independent voice, the important thing was to create some “interesting” television. At least the location was vaguely relevant and quite interesting: how many times have you seen TV journalists doing their “two-ways” from outside empty buildings?


I was reminded of all this this morning when Amnesty’s Sam Zarifi was interviewed about China on the Today programme. Fortunately, radio doesn’t need to worry about location (apart from sometimes wanting some background noise or “actuality” for added interest) and Sam was able to pop into a studio near his London home.


China’s reported organ harvesting is so macabre that it is bound to grab headlines. The secrecy that has made it hard to either prove or disprove only adds to the interest but today we know a little more than we did when I did my ill-fated interview. As the Guardian reports, Chinese state media have revealed that two-thirds of organ donors in China are executed prisoners.

 But secrecy remains about how many executions take place. Amnesty International said that at least 1,718 people were executed in 2008 – more than all other countries put together – but the true figure is likely to be much higher.And, as Sam Zarifi acknowledged this morning – and this is the really macabre bit – it has long been rumoured that some executions may actually have taken place to precisely to serve the very lucrative market for transplanted organs.


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