Netizens are casting doubt on recent reports that students were paid to take part in a protest against the takeover by Want Want China Times Group of the cable TV channels owned by service provider China Network Systems (CNS), saying the group most likely instigated the reports to attack the protesters.
On Friday, the Chinese-language China Times, China Times Weekly and local news channel CtiTV — all members of Want Want Group — ran stories with pictures showing student protesters taking money after a rally outside the National Communications Commission (NCC) building.
Although the media outlets provided no evidence to back up their claims, the three outlets reported that Academia Sinica research fellow Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌) may have been involved in paying the students.
Huang had organized a separate demonstration at the same time as the student rally in front of the NCC building because the commission was reviewing the merger at that time. However, reports from the China Times, China Times Weekly and CtiTV did not differentiate between the two demonstrations.
Although Huang organized a press conference denying that he had any connection with the student protest, the media group continued to accuse him of “not wanting to clarify the incident,” while saying he was “not willing to disclose the truth.”
Yesterday, several media outlets, including the Chinese-language Apple Daily, claimed to have discovered the identity of a woman who handed out money to students on Wednesday.
The woman, identified as Liang Li-hui (梁麗惠), is an accountant at Chinsen Communications Co.
While reporters were unable to contact her, Liang’s colleagues said that although they did not know who had hired the company to recruit students, they were certain it was not Huang.
Netizens are increasingly voicing suspicions that Want Want Group may be behind the incident and using it as a way to stigmatize opponents of the takeover.
National Tsinghua University student Chen Wei-ting (陳為廷) posted a picture of the protest that was aired in a CtiTV report, with the China Times Weekly deputy editor-in-chief Lin Chao-hsin (林朝鑫) among the crowd, adding that he suspected Want Want was behind the protest.
Lin denied the accusations, saying he was at the protest because it was his job to report on it, while CTiTV threatened to file a slander lawsuit against Chen.
Want Want China Times Media Group employees accused the media giant of manipulating news reports to attack Huang.
“I feel like dying everyday,” a reporter told the Taipei Times on condition of anonymity. “My name is on news reports attacking Huang, and I’ve seen readers criticizing me for the reports on the Internet, but the fact is that I didn’t produce most of these reports.”
The employee said that his name and the names of several of his colleagues were on the byline of a news report published on Friday implying that Huang was behind the incident.
“In fact, 90 percent of the report came directly from the China Times Weekly and what I wrote was all deleted,” the reporter said. “I complained about this several times, but the management simply ignored me.”
The reporter said many employees within the group feel uncomfortable with what the company asks them to do, with one resigning because of it.
Huang released a statement yesterday, asking Want Want China Times to “stop destroying the dignity of journalists in the group.”