In certain regards, the press in Taiwan is subject to more stringent controls than it is in the UK. British tabloids have been around for about 300 years, and now that they have been found to have broken the law, Leveson has called for regulation backed up by legislation. British Prime Minister David Cameron, while accepting the recommendations in the report, has expressed reservations about statutory regulation. However, in Taiwan, the paparazzi culture was only a decade old when the Child and Juvenile Welfare Act (兒童及少年福利法) enshrined a news self-regulation system into law.
That said, legislation in Taiwan is way behind in terms of guarantees of transparency in relationships between the press and politicians or on plurality of opinions, turning the old adage on leniency on its head to become: “Be strict with others and lenient upon oneself.”
In the UK, the reports on the cellphone hacking scandal made it quite clear that many politicians were pandering to the press, cowed by their power, and it has become difficult to know just who is running the country, or who is steering policy formation.
If this kind of thing can happen in the UK, with its robust press and stringent restrictions on media acquisition within an established democracy, the Leveson report has implications that go beyond the British press industry: It also provides food for thought for Taiwan.
Chiang Ya-chi is an assistant professor at the Shih Hsin University School of Law’s Graduate Institute for Intellectual Property Rights.
Translated by Paul Cooper