Tue, May 24, 2011 - Page 8 News List

[ LETTER ]

Chiu Yi’s BS cocktail

Like many people who care about the state of Taiwan’s free press, I wonder how so many unsubstantiated claims can be spread by the media without qualification, explanation or apparently, investigation. I’m especially concerned that even the Taipei Times, arguably Asia’s best newspaper, isn’t immune to this phenomenon.

A recent case in point involves the vituperative Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chiu Yi (邱毅) who, according to the Taipei Times, had “been facing multiple slander suits for revealing scandals without offering proof” (“Chiu Yi found guilty of slander,” Jan. 20, 2008, page 2). According to a story last week, he “alleged that Tsai Ying-wen’s (蔡英文) had failed to apply to close the account given to retired civil servants” (“DPP officials deny bank claims,” May 17, page 3). However, the headline should have read “KMT legislator spews speculation” to match the story.

What is clearly needed in Taiwan is the equivalent of Media Matters for America or FactCheck.org in the US. Nearly everything Chiu says would be rated “pants on fire.” Readers should be reminded that this man has no credibility whatsoever — he makes Teacher Wang look like Albert Einstein.

Fair and balanced news reporting doesn’t mean interviewing the freaks on the extreme left and right fringes for their input on an issue. It means thoughtfully evaluating the veracity of information as well as its source. It’s a little embarrassing that some local papers just copy and paste the “info” from the KMT Web site as if it were true and independently verified.

Similarly, I was disappointed at the two above-the-fold stories on the front page late last month discussing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai ascent as Taiwan’s presidential hopeful (“DPP’s Tsai to run for president,” April 28, page 1).

In that article, Vincent Y. Chao (趙怡翔), reporting on the DPP side, wrote: “[Former premier] Su [Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌)]’s immediate endorsement of Tsai will likely alleviate some of the concerns that the primary would split the party.”

On the other hand, in a story on the same page, staff reporter Mo Yan-chih (莫彥芝) quotes KMT spokesman Su Jun-pin (蘇俊賓) as having said: “We are concerned about the negative campaign strategies used in the DPP’s presidential primary” (“KMT surprises nobody with Ma nomination,” April 28, page 1). This baseless factoid was reported on the front page, without any qualifiers, such as “asserted” or “claimed.”

Given that the four televised DPP presentations were described as “cordial,” “dull,” “too peaceful” and “plain, stiff, dull and banal” by observers and academics, I find Su Jin-pin’s assertion unjustifiable. Maybe not “pants on fire,” but clearly what he said was a misleading lie, geared at riling his supporters.

Elsewhere, I’ve seen Chiu described as a “muckraker,” a term which implies that the person is a whistleblower or an investigative journalist, which Chiu is clearly not, in his capacity as a malicious rumormonger. I hope Taiwan’s voters send him out of office so he can start serving all those prison sentences he’s been accumulating during his terms in the legislature.

And amid the anti-bullying sentiment I read about almost daily in the Taipei Times, I think these people should be named and shamed.

So I’m calling you out, Chiu Yi: You’re a bully. Back off, and cut the crap.

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