Thu, May 01, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Taiwan leads Asia in media freedom list for second year

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan has won the distinction of being listed as having Asia’s freest media environment for the second consecutive year in the annual Freedom House report.

The US non-governmental organization’s Freedom of the Press 2008 report released on Tuesday in advance of World Press Freedom Day on Saturday lists Taiwan as one of only three Asian countries with “free” media.

“The survey shows that freedom of speech in Taiwan is highly regarded by Freedom House, and that is an honor for all of Taiwan’s people,” Government Information Office Minister Shieh Jhy-wey (謝志偉) said yesterday.

In the face of a decline in global press freedom over the past six straight years, Taiwan has continued moving up the Freedom House rankings, Shieh said.

Of the 195 countries and territories included in the rankings, Taiwan was listed 32nd, up one place from last year. This year’s score for Taiwan was its best ever. Taiwan’s ranking was the highest in Asia, ahead of Japan at 35 and South Korea at 67 — the only three Asian countries where the report lists the media as “free.”

Hong Kong was also ranked 67th.

Freedom House rated each country’s legal, political and economic environment, as well as the degree to which each of these factors affected media freedom.

In its draft report, Freedom House attributed Taiwan’s free media environment to its commitment to judicial independence, economic freedom and a highly competitive media market.

“The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and the government generally respects these rights in practice. Taiwanese media are vigorous and lively, regularly criticizing government policy and top officials,” the report said.

In the survey, 72 countries, or 37 percent, were rated as “free,” while 59 nations, or 30 percent, were described as “partly free” and 64 countries, or 33 percent, as “not free.”

China continued to be rated as “not free,” with a global ranking of 181, the same as the previous year.

Freedom House said that China last year tightened media control and Internet restrictions in preparation for the 17th Communist Party Congress, and imprisoned more online journalists and bloggers, despite moderate breakthroughs for investigative journalism and regulations providing somewhat greater access to foreign correspondents.

“In general, journalists who attempted to investigate or report on controversial issues, criticized the [Chinese] Communist Party or presented a perspective contrary to state propaganda continued to suffer harassment, job loss, abuse and detention,” the report said.

Global media freedom watchdogs estimate that at least 29 journalists and 51 cyber-dissidents were in prison in China at the end of last year, more than any other country, while at least nine journalists and online writers were detained during the year over information they had published on the Internet, it said.

Myanmar, Cuba, Libya, North Korea and Turkmenistan, which remained among the worst-rated countries on the list, were joined by Eritrea last year, while a crackdown in Myanmar worsened that country’s already repressive media environment, leaving its score second only to that of North Korea, Freedom House said.

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