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Tue, Jun 15, 2004 - Page 26 News List

Recording the annals of our time

With so much of Taiwan's media doing China's bidding and abusing freedomof speech, the `Taipei Times' has a job to do in setting the record straight

By Rick Chu

Moreover, Taiwan has a group of pro-China politicians who openly support Beijing, serving as little more than running dogs for that government.

They even instruct Beijing regarding ways to manipulate Taiwan's media to achieve the greatest propaganda benefit. On May 17, when China's Taiwan Affairs Office made its first harsh criticism of the elections, the speech was released at midnight, the deadline for all Taiwan newspapers, ensuring that the speech could only be printed on the front page and in its totality, without the benefit of comment or analysis.

But Taiwanese should be used to this kind of trickery by now. In the run-up to the 2000 presidential election, when the Chung Hsing Bills scandal erupted, James Soong (宋楚瑜), a former head of the Government Information Office and a master of media manipulation, would regularly hold press conferences at midnight to ensure that his words would be published in totality without time for assessment or judgment. It hasn't taken Beijing long to learn this trick.

I often regret that under the fierce and hungry gaze of China, Taiwan has been able to develop only an abnormal and unsound democracy. As a result, press freedom is malformed and confused. Much of the iniquity of Taiwan's media practices hides behind the banner of freedom of speech. Not only do media organizations demand exemption from legal liability for their reports, but even claim protection under the law.

Even convicted criminals such as Chen Yu-hao (陳由豪) can become "gods of righteousness" in the media. If the government intervenes, then these paparazzi take their case to overseas media watchdogs, and these, not fully understanding the issues at hand, make accusations against the government for interfering with press freedom. Using false accusations to gain protection has proven to be effective.

But our government seems to have no recourse. It hasn't the courage to prohibit media reports that take no notice of the law or to press charges. Democratic Progressive Party officials have a love-hate relationship with the media. Prior to winning power, each and every one of them was a media darling and benefited from favorable reports. Now they are silent in the face of execrable media quality.

Members of President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) government must busily work to put out the fires of media-instigated rumors. How much time remains for the serious work of government is not hard to imagine.

Unfortunately, Taiwan has long been a fragile society lacking a sense of security. It is unusually sensitive to rumor and intimidation. This is reflected in the stock market. Oddly enough, it is always the government that people blame for any fall in the market. They never blame Beijing.

Faced with a chaotic internal and external environment in which professional ethics and values have become muddled, we continue to uphold a position of "Taiwan first" and defend mainstream values.

The fifth anniversary of this paper coincides with the beginning of Chen's second term. Before the election, we strongly supported Chen's campaign.

He faced great challenges in his first term -- there where many obstacles and much garbage from the old era to clear away. And his performance has left much to be desired -- a first-time government without much experience and with few outstanding individuals. Therefore, we feel it only fair to give him a second chance. We do not wish to criticize too harshly the mistakes he made during his first term.

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