Sat, Dec 29, 2018 - Page 8 News List

[ LETTERS ]

China is buying press

Ananth Krishnan, a former China correspondent for India Today, published an article titled “China is buying good press across the world, one paid journalist at a time,” on ThePrint on Nov. 24.

Krishnan said that China has successfully bought journalists in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and more than a dozen countries in Southeast Asia and Africa with luxury housing, scholarships and free tours, so the journalists would comply with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) call to “tell China’s story better” to the world.

Meanwhile, Reporters Without Borders’ East Asia Bureau director Cedric Alviani has warned that China overlooks journalistic ethics, saying that if democratic nations do not stop this, news might be replaced by propaganda in 20 years.

Unfortunately, his warning is now a reality in Taiwan.

Former Hualien County commissioner Fu Kun-chi, a big fan of Xi, has been accused of hiring reporters to “tell Hualien’s story better” by praising his administration’s achievements in their reports and brainwashing local residents by creating a false impression of a happy life.

By winning elections on the back of such reports paid for with taxpayers’ money, Fu distorted the democratic elections in the county. I cannot help but wonder: Is this political scandal legal?

The case was uncovered by then-Hualien County acting commissioner Tsai Pi-chung (蔡碧仲), who found that Fu spent NT$5.46 million (US$177,659) of the county’s tax income to create a media database with reports promoting the county government’s policies through closed tenders for 25 projects.

A leaked audio recording purportedly features former Hualien County Government deputy secretary-general Hsieh Kung-ping (謝公秉), a reporter-turned-politician, promising some reporters a payment of NT$50,000 per month or NT$600,000 per year to write stories praising Fu’s political achievements and not to write anything negative about Fu, who is called the “Hualien king” (花蓮王).

Can the resignation of the reporters involved following the leaked recording really be the end of this huge scandal that has hurt media professionalism?

Hsieh contravened the Government Procurement Act (政府採購法) and other related regulations by helping reporters win the tender, paying them generously with taxpayers’ money for Fu’s political gain.

When politicians intervene in news reporting with public money, there is a clear case of quid pro quo between the politicians and the reporters involved.

Prosecutors and investigators should look into Fu’s case, so as to bring civil servants and reporters who committed bribery to justice. They should not respond to this ugly money game with the vague concept of media independence.

Moreover, during campaigning for the Nov. 24 nine-in-one elections, certain Taiwanese media outlets acted like certain candidates’ direct-selling channels, with nonstop news coverage of these candidates to brainwash their supporters.

Surely they must have learned this trick for attracting votes from Xi.

Lin Chih-han

Tainan

Are they missing?

More than 150 Vietnamese have gone missing in Taiwan. How do we know they are missing?

According to media reports, they checked into their hotel and then left the hotel an hour later. Law enforcement officers are looking for them. Why? Exactly what crime are they suspected of committing? Is leaving your hotel a crime in Taiwan? Is leaving your tour group a crime in Taiwan? Are they suspected of overstaying their visas?

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