Officials from the US, Japan and Sweden yesterday joined their Taiwanese counterparts for a workshop in Taipei on tackling disinformation, with some noting its rampant spread in Taiwan in the run-up to the presidential and legislative elections in January.
The two-day Defending Democracy through Promoting Media Literacy workshop is the second held under the Taiwan-US Global Cooperation Training Framework.
This year it was also cosponsored by Japan and Sweden.
Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times
Addressing the opening ceremony, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Scott Busby, who is leading the US delegation to the workshop, praised Taiwan for its commitment to universally accepted human rights and democratic principles, including the fundamental freedoms of speech, religion, press, association and peaceful assembly.
These freedoms must be vigorously protected throughout the entire Indo-Pacific region, including in Hong Kong, he said.
“Taiwan’s 2020 elections are only a few months away, and China once again seeks to use disinformation to undermine the vote, divide the people, and sow seeds of doubt in democratic systems” through numerous channels, he said.
“Taiwan is also on the front line of this battle and faces the same challenge, albeit from a more determined opponent,” American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Director Brent Christensen said.
The US and other nations have much to learn from Taiwan about how to marshal academic, policy and technical resources to confront that kind of external pressure, he said, highlighting the need to help citizens become “discerning consumers” of media reports.
Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association Deputy Representative Shigehiro Nishiumi called for a balanced approach to tackling the issues of disinformation while protecting freedom of expression, which is the “very foundation of democracy.”
Swedish Trade and Invest Council Representative Hakan Jevrell said people know that many actors use information to affect their behavior, which can be as harmless as trying to influence consumers to buy certain goods, but authoritarian states are using the tools to undermine democracy.
“We must be aware and act ... and continue educating ourselves and vaccinate ourselves against harmful information,” he said.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) reaffirmed Taiwan’s determination to safeguard its democracy, saying that dealing with false information is more important than ever when holding presidential elections.
The workshop, which is being held at the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, is cohosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, AIT’s Taipei office, the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association, the Swedish Trade and Invest Council, the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute.
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