A Greek amongst the Chinese media

A passion for truth led Greek Australian Tina Sofos to present the world news for a Chinese broadcaster

When Tina Sofos was asked by the media directors of the Chinese channel NTD to be one of their news presenters, she felt a bit nervous about the idea of being on television and viewed by thousands of people every day.

But after some serious thought, she decided that it was for a worthwhile and just cause. There isn’t room for self-consciousness when human rights are concerned.

A firm believer in human rights and freedom of speech, she realised that this was something that she could stand up for. It was something she could sink her teeth in. But what truly convinced her to make the decision to join, was the fact that NTD was the first channel that broke the SARS story in 2003- three weeks before Beijing announced the epidemic. That fact alone saved thousands of lives.

“It was the Greek in me that wanted that,” she said, “that’s where we come from, we stand up for democracy and we stand up for human rights.”

New Tang Dynasty Television (NTD) is a television broadcaster based in New York City, with correspondents in over 70 cities worldwide. It took it’s name from the height of the Chinese imperial era 618 – 907AD which is referred to as the golden age in China. Tang Dynasty emperors adopted liberal policies that enabled China’s feudal society to prosper. NTD News, the company’s flagship program, strives to provide insightful coverage of China with the highest ethical standards of Western journalism.

Its stated mission is to bring truthful and uncensored information into and out of China; to restore and promote traditional Chinese culture; and to facilitate mutual understanding between the East and West. NTD is recognised by the organisation Reporters Without Borders and the International Federation of Journalists as a leading Chinese language media that provides uncensored information to the Chinese people.

NTD provides a voice for those voiceless in China such as the underground Christians, the Uygyrs, the Falun Gong Practitioners, the Tibetans and the human rights and democracy activists. The NTD is a non profit network supported by the public for the public. Of which there are people from all walks of life working for and supporting the NTD.

It’s the expression of independence and pluralism by overseas Chinese in the media market that seriously needs an independent voice. NTD neither teaches the doctrines of, nor attempts to represent the view point of any belief system. With 60 reporting bureaus worldwide, NTD is the largest Chinese Correspondent network reaching four continents through satellite and cable.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the station’s broadcasts can theoretically reach 200 million viewers globally, including 50 million in mainland China. Using technological advances NTD beams its signal to a nation whose culture values truth, but whose authoritarian regime has for far too long suppressed it. Since its founding, NTD has expanded to include English, Spanish, Japanese, French, and several other language editions.

In addition to news, NTD promotes traditional Chinese arts and culture through a wide variety of TV shows and events. NTD is also the New York production sponsor of Shen Yun Performing Arts, which presents classical Chinese dance and music shows at some of the world’s most prestigious venues.

In 2005 The International Federation of Journalists made the following statement about NTD: “NTD has gained an international reputation for it’s objective and timely reporting of political economic and cultural stories in Chinese.” In 2009, the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) spent 6.6 billion on its worldwide propaganda efforts to further maintain the black curtain it has had over their citizens therefore it is more important than ever that NTD expand its reach to counterbalance the CCP’s propaganda efforts both inside and outside China.

But how did Tina Sofos, a Greek Australian end up working for NTD? Tina already had a background in dealing with people’s needs, developing a good rapport with people through hard work. She started her own business in food and hospitality when she was just 21 years old before going into hairdressing and hair salons. Empathetic by nature, she has an open heart for people’s struggles, listening endlessly to their problems and difficulties. She had heard through a family member that NTD had an opening for a PR manager for the newspaper Epoch Times (a media partner).

Tina had already set herself up businesswise and just happened to be at a place in her life where she felt able to do something that she was passionate about. Later on she found herself presenting the news, when the media directors’ wanted a face. However, this wasn’t the first time Tina had been asked to be the face for human rights. In 2007 she was asked to host the global human rights torch relay in Syntagma square in Athens.

“When I was standing on the podium in Syntagma square, of course I was nervous, but what drove me again was the sense of cause. A year before the Olympics in Beijing, there were many groups that had been persecuted and we had to stand proud, because we come from Greece – the Olympics started in Greece – I knew I just had to be a part of this. If I don’t stand up who will?” Tina said.

“You need to speak up and say what is wrong, if you don’t speak up how will you be able to sleep at night? I can’t control what happens in China, nobody can, but we can control our individual actions and play a vital part with the things we do here”, she added. Tina was trained as a TV presenter for a year and a half now. She now feels blessed to be a part of such an important community.

When I asked her if she could relate to the Chinese culture she replied that coming from an ancient culture like the Greek one, made it easier to relate to another ancient one like the Chinese.

“The genuine culture is still there. It’s based on ‘divine culture’, something we have learnt from our mythology, like the stories about Hercules. There are so many stories I as a person can relate to. If you do good deeds you are rewarded and if you do bad ones you have to face the consequences”, she said.

Many Chinese people have come up to her and said the news that this channel is broadcasting is the only news that updates them with what really is going on inside and outside China. “That makes me feel that it’s all worth it. My core belief is that when you do the right thing, you don’t have any fear and no one can touch you”, she said.

The Chinese communist party has total control over the media inside China, that’s why it is very important for NTD to be fully independent to counteract the fact; they want to silence independent voices. But the responsibility of her position lies within a very valid question that her son once asked when he was ten years old: ‘Mum does the news say the truth?’

For more information about donations and the channel’s work you can visit the channel’s website http://english.ntdtv.com/ or via email melbourne@ntdtv.com

You can watch Tina Sofos, presenting the NTD world news either by visiting NTD’s website or by tuning on C31, every Tuesday at 2:30 pm.