A Polish journalist accused Taiwan’s representative office of interfering with the freedom of the press by requesting a Polish media outlet to retract a report on protesters’ occupation of the Executive Yuan.
Having published a series of reports on the occupation of the legislature, the Polish media group Niezalezna — which owns several print and online news outlets in Poland, including the daily Gazeta Polska Codziennie, the weekly Gazeta Polska and the monthly Nowe Panstwo — received a letter from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Bureau in Poland, protesting its use of an analogy between the occupation of the Executive Yuan compound by protesters and the consequent violent crackdown by police and the occupation of the central square, Maidan, in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, by protesters who were also treated brutally by the police.
While saying that Taiwan is a “robust democracy and the people in Taiwan enjoy a high degree of freedom of speech,” the representative office still requested that an “appropriate retraction can be made to present the current picture of this news story and avoid misunderstanding among people in Poland and Taiwan,” as “making an analogy between a fully fledged democracy and the bloodshed that happened in Ukraine” not only presents a “completely wrong image of Taiwan,” it is also insulting, the letter said.
Hanna Shen, the reporter for the media group who wroted the story, as well as several other stories on the student occupation of the legislature, said she was shocked when she received the letter.
“My newspaper has been publishing articles very critical of the governments of Russia, China and the former Ukrainian government, but we never received any letter from the representative offices of those countries asking us to retract anything,” she told the Taipei Times in a telephone interview in English.
“And those countries can’t be even called democratic,” she added.
“I personally think this letter, as an attempt to influence, to control the way media in free and democratic Poland writes about Taiwan, is not acceptable,” she said.
Shen said that the analogy between Taiwan and Maidan was made by several students taking part in the protest who she interviewed, and that she believed the analogy was suitable after having personally witnessed unarmed students, doctors and journalists being beaten by the police when the government evicted protesters from the Executive Yuan.
“Not to mention that many media outlets around the world — including in Germany and in the US — have also made the same analogy in their reports,” Shen said.
“I wonder if the Taiwanese government has also asked them to retract the analogy,” Shen added.
When asked for a response, Zhang Ming-zhong (張銘忠), director-general of European affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that the ministry’s overseas mission would issue a rebuttal in the event of biased reports.
As for the particular case concerning the Polish journalist’s complaint, Zhang said he is in the midst of contacting the representative office to better understand the matter.