Fri, Jan 14, 2011 - Page 1 News List

Taiwan rights ranking stable: Freedom House

By J. Michael Cole  /  Staff Reporter, with AP

US-based watchdog Freedom House was yesterday set to release its annual Freedom in the World 2011 report, with little change in Taiwan’s ranking despite some concerns over continued government interference with the media.

Based on the organization’s initial findings for last year, which were to be made public at a conference in Washington, Taiwan scored 1 in the political rights sphere and 2 on civil liberties, the same as the previous year.

“Taiwan remained one of Asia’s strongest democracies,” Sarah Cook, Asia research analyst and assistant editor at Freedom House, told the Taipei Times by e-mail yesterday.

“Municipal elections held [on Nov. 27] were widely viewed as free and fair, despite a shooting at a rally the evening before the polls,” Cook said.

She did not mention, however, the rapid mobilization by some senior Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) officials to exploit the shooting of Sean Lien (連勝文) for the party’s benefit the following day.

On the handling of the corruption charges against former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), Cook said: “Procedural irregularities evident in earlier stages of ... [the] case did not appear to repeat as the case moved up the judiciary during the appeal’s process.”

In its 2010 report, which covered events in 2009, Freedom House had pointed to “flaws” in the handling of Chen’s case.

Taiwan’s performance last year wasn’t entirely positive, however, with Freedom House noting a decline in the media sphere.

“The early dismissal of the leadership of the Public Television Service following a series of disputes raised concerns over the independence of publicly funded media,” Cook said, continuing a trend observed in last year’s report, which said that “reforms and personnel changes at publicly owned media since 2008 have raised concerns about politicization.”

Elsewhere, Freedom House said 25 countries had shown significant declines in democracy last year, with little serious resistance from the democratic world.

This was the fifth consecutive year Freedom House reported a decline in political rights and civil liberties worldwide.

“Our adversaries are not just engaging in widespread repression, they are doing so with unprecedented aggressiveness and self-confidence,” said David Kramer, executive director of the group. “And the democratic community is not rising to the challenge.”

The report’s survey of 194 countries and 14 territories found that China, Egypt, Iran, Russia and Venezuela continued to increase repressive measures with little significant resistance from democracies.

Among the examples cited were Beijing’s pressuring foreign governments to boycott the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony honoring jailed democracy advocate Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波) and Russia’s “blatant disregard” for judicial independence in sentencing former oil magnate Mikhail Khordokovsky after a trial widely considered fraudulent.

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