As campaigning for Saturday’s nine-in-one elections heats up, the “Han phenomenon” surrounding Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Kaohsiung mayoral candidate Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) has not just been making a lot of noise on the Internet. Some China-friendly news channels have degenerated into a “Han Kuo-yu fan club,” broadcasting positive reports about him all day, every day.
This monotonous and one-sided programming tramples on the principle of fairness in reporting, which news channels are required to follow by law. Some news media have even gone so far as to manufacture fake news, such as a rumor that Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chiu Yi-ying (邱議瑩) begged people at an election rally in Kaohsiung for her party’s mayoral candidate, DPP Legislator Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁), not to leave.
Chiu actually thanked attendees for not leaving even though it was quite late.
Such rumor-mongering clearly contravenes the legal requirement to verify facts before reporting a story.
The US-China Economic and Security Review Commission on Wednesday last week published its annual report to the US Congress.
It said that Beijing has been using disinformation and other methods in an effort to interfere in Taiwan’s elections.
In an interview with TVBS that was broadcast on Nov. 9, American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman James Moriarty said that “external powers” were trying to alter the debate in Taiwan and spread false information to change the outcome of the elections, which he said is dangerous.
The government, and especially the National Communications Commission (NCC), which is responsible for matters to do with broadcasting, must seriously consider the warnings emanating from the US and be more decisive in enforcing the law.
Article 27 of the Satellite Broadcasting Act (衛星廣播電視法) says: “The content of the program and advertisement produced and broadcasted by a satellite broadcasting business and the branch office or agent of a foreign satellite broadcasting business shall respect cultural diversity, protect human dignity and fulfill social responsibility. The produced and broadcast news and comments shall pay attention to fact verification and principles of fairness.”
Paragraph 4 of the article says that satellite TV and radio news broadcasts must not violate the principle of fact verification or harm the public interest.
Article 48 and other articles in the penal provisions chapter of the act say that satellite broadcasting companies that contravene these regulations face fines of NT$200,000 to NT$2 million (US$6,471 to US$64,712) and are required to suspend transmission of the offending program or advertisement, or take corrective measures.
Given these clearly stipulated regulations and the warnings raised in the US congressional report and by the AIT, the NCC should stop condoning the biased reporting of the “Han Kuo-yu fan club” news stations. It should also stop turning a blind eye to fake news.
Before Saturday’s elections, the NCC must implement measures to hold offenders responsible and take corrective action. Only by so doing can it perform its duty of safeguarding the nation’s hard-won democracy and the rule of law.
Huang Di-ying is a lawyer.
Translated by Julian Clegg
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