The government must know that last year in Geneva, Switzerland, the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) issued its 49-point General Comment No. 34 on Article 19 of the ICCPR — the article concerning the freedom of expression — point 40 of which reiterated that signatory nations “should promote plurality of the media” and “should take appropriate action, consistent with the Covenant, to prevent undue media dominance or concentration by privately controlled media groups in monopolistic situations that might be harmful to a diversity of sources and views.”
Since Taiwan has already enacted the Act to Implement the ICCPR and ICESCR (公民與政治權利國際公約及經濟社會文化權利國際公約施行法), the government has implicitly recognized that Taiwan is legally bound to comply with these covenants under domestic law, and acknowledged that it is required to abide by the legislative intent and interpretations of the two covenants issued by the UN Human Rights Committee.
It has also agreed that government agencies have a duty to comply with the stipulations within the covenants pertaining to human rights guarantees in the way they conduct themselves.
If the president is sincere about implementing the two covenants and not just paying lip service to them, he cannot take a passive attitude toward media monopolization. He should clarify where he stands on the issue and take affirmative action.
Ma knows he no longer faces the pressure of having to seek re-election. It could well be that he is now more interested in his historical legacy than his present popularity.
Nevertheless, he faces a key stage of an issue involving Taiwan’s very democracy.
Is he going to side with a business tycoon who would think little of obliterating the media’s ability to protect democracy and thereby be guilty by virtue of his failure to act. Or is he going to side with those who would protect Taiwan’s democratic values?
Huang Kuo-chang is an associate research fellow at the Institutum Iurisprudentiae of the Academia Sinica.
Translated by Paul Cooper