A coalition of student groups yesterday announced the establishment of the Youth Front for Boycotting Fake News, with experts highlighting Beijing’s increased interference in Taiwan’s public communication channels.
More than 100 university and high-school student groups, along with more than 50 experts, have pledged to support the front, which was established last week.
The front’s creation followed student-led campaigns last month on National Taiwan University’s (NTU) and National Chengchi University’s campuses to boycott TV stations allegedly broadcasting false or biased news reports in favor of certain politicians, NTU Student Association president Michelle Wu (吳奕柔) told a news conference in front of the Legislative Yuan in Taipei.
Front members said they would mail a pledge to produce verified and objective reports, as well as the Chinese-language book Critical Media Literacy (批判的媒體識讀), which is used as teaching material at Shih Hsin University, to six TV news stations to remind them of basic journalistic ethics.
The front is targeting TV stations because they are the main source of information for older people, said front spokesman Chen Ku-hsiung (陳估熊), who is also the president of the National Cheng Kung University Student Association.
Taiwan Citizen Front founder and lawyer Lai Chung-chiang (賴中強) said that China has been expanding its influence over Taiwanese media, despite opponents of media monopolization in 2012 blocking Want Want China Times Media Group (旺旺中時媒體) from buying cable service operator China Network Systems Co (中嘉網路).
Chinese-backed media monopolization efforts no longer target a single media outlet, but have become a universal phenomenon in Taiwanese media, Lai said.
The campaign against false news reports is a new student movement following the 2014 Sunflower movement, and it has rallied groups promoting transitional justice, students’ rights and high-school curricular reform, Academia Sinica Institute of Taiwan History associate research fellow Wu Rwei-ren (吳叡人) said.
Chinese authorities and their proxies in Taiwan must not underestimate the civic power of Taiwanese society, he said.
Asked to comment on the Democratic Progressive Party’s performance, he said that as the party remains the most important party in Taiwan, it is crucial that it does not fall apart after its presidential primary.
When national security is threatened, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and former premier William Lai (賴清德) — who are vying to become the party’s presidential nominee — should put aside their egos and rethink what they should do to protect the nation, he added.
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