Sat, Mar 10, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Annette Lu tames the world press

You've got to hand it to Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮). As the nation's most powerful woman and a self-declared feminist, she has been useless in promoting legal reform and rights awareness in a country that this week received another battering in a US State Department report over its failure to punish physical and sexual abusers of women and children.

But she sure can bring media outlets like CNN and The Associated Press (AP) to their knees for quoting abusive language from Beijing. In the week that she announced her push for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) nomination for president, Lu pounced on two of several news outlets that recycled the expressions "scum of the nation" and "insane" just when she was looking to make an extra headline out of her campaign launch.

Beijing's insults are ludicrous and demean every Taiwanese. But they are dramatic, and to many entertaining, which is why news agencies and correspondents turn to them when they seek to spice up their stories. For years, this newspaper has criticized international news agencies for misrepresenting Taiwan and portraying it as a "renegade Chinese province" at the expense of the Taiwanese view. In this instance, however, AP and CNN were simply playing the same old tune. While objectionable, these kinds of reports are nothing new.

So why has it taken seven years for the DPP government to do anything about it?

The key here is to distinguish between reporting that is sensationalist and that which is actively biased toward one side of the Taiwan Strait. If CNN is guilty of anything it is the former, but this is largely a product of ignorance and not having a reliable correspondent in Taiwan, not ill will toward Lu or any other individual.

For AP and CNN to be accused of being "proud and prejudicial" -- as Lu has said -- and pro-China in general is preposterous. Only weeks ago CNN's Anjali Rao interviewed President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) at length on the Talk Asia program, which was notable for the fact that Chen had to be translated throughout -- unusual for the network. We also see no shortage of reports in CNN depicting Beijing's incompetence and malice in domestic affairs, including terrible footage of police mistreatment of ordinary people, content no doubt that has led the network to be censored in China.

As for AP, Taiwan has been quite professionally covered by the agency's correspondents. We might occasionally quibble with AP's treatment of stories and its interpretation of political developments, but for DPP caucus whip Wang Sing-nan (王幸男) to call for Cabinet resignations if the AP reporter at issue is not hounded out of the country is a contemptible over-reaction and reminiscent of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) thuggery in the Martial Law era.

It's one thing to keep a select group of reporters from China's state-run media on a short leash. It's another altogether to threaten real journalists with visa cancelations. If freedom of speech is to be respected, then reporters must not be threatened, and that includes threats over material that is offensive to the government of the day.

If AP proceeds with a compensatory Lu interview as it has promised, there are certain questions that it should include on domestic matters if it is not to stoop to the level of an appeasing infomercial -- which is what Lu would prefer.

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