China has been accused of allegedly detaining up to one million Uighur and other Turkic Muslim minorities in its Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region under what UN experts have called the "pretext of countering terrorism and religious extremism".

Beijing, however, denies allegations of mass detention and discrimination, saying the strict security measures in Xinjiang are aimed at preventing what it calls the "three forces - separatism, extremism and terrorism".

Einar Tangen, economic adviser to the Chinese government, explains that authorities "believe that there are radical elements who have infiltrated the population and convinced people that they should have an independent homeland."

Chinese officials want to limit information and imagery coming out of the region and controlling access is central to their strategy.

However, there are some cameras they can't control; the ones in space. Satellite photos of the detention centres that featured in international media won't be seen on Chinese television because domestic media is tightly controlled.

There's no charges, no trial, people just sort of disappear into these places for many months at a time and even longer.

Megha Rajagopalan, journalist

Uighur journalist Alim Seytoff reports on the story from Washington. He is the director of the US-funded Radio Free Asia's Uighur service.

It's nearly impossible for Uighur reporters to practise their craft there and those that have "spoken out against China's repressive policies have been detained in these camps," says Seytoff. Because Chinese journalists are forced to toe the government line, "they cannot independently report on what is happening to the Uighur people.

"There's no charges, no trial, people just sort of disappear into these places for many months at a time and even longer," explains journalist Megha Rajagopalan, who has her own story to tell. She is one of the very few foreign reporters who managed to get into Xinjiang to report on the situation there, but weeks after her piece was published by Buzzfeed, she was expelled from the country.

Chinese journalists reporting on it have it worse: they could face threats, violence and in some cases prison sentences.

President Xi Jinping has had no qualms in telling Chinese journalists and the news outlets they work for that the media's ultimate loyalty must be to the state, not the story.

Xi has been president for six years now. His burgeoning power and influence have been compared to Mao Zedong's, who once said: "The role and power of newspapers consist in their ability to present the party's line, its specific policies, goals and work methods to the masses."

Half a century later in Xinjiang, for the government in Beijing and the media outlets that spread the word, the same rules still apply.

Source: Al Jazeera