Reporters' Day, a little-known national holiday celebrating the contributions of journalists, generated much fanfare in Taipei yesterday -- but not for the reasons the holiday's creators intended.
University students and panelists at a news conference used the occasion to blast the media for being unprofessional and sensational, and for failing in its duty to educate the public.
"Reporters' Day should be a day to celebrate! Instead, we have no choice but to use this holiday to criticize the media and urge them to reflect on how they report the news!" screamed Lin Ching-tang (
Halfway through the rally, Lin's megaphone cut out, so he shouted out students' demands that the media be more professional until he went hoarse.
"Boycott unprofessional news outlets!" Lin shouted to a cheering crowd.
The Association of Taiwan Journalists, a non-government, non-profit organization comprised of media professionals, also slammed local media in a Taipei press conference yesterday for a lack of professionalism.
"Reporters have gone from being the victims of human rights violations by the government of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) era, to being victimizers of the subjects on whom they report," said Tien Hsi-ju (田習如), the association's director.
Lin I-hui (林宜慧), the General-Secretary of the Persons with HIV/AIDS Rights Advocacy Association of Taiwan (PRAA), blamed the local media during yesterday's conference for spreading misinformation regarding HIV/AIDS.
She cited local newspapers' reports of surgical mask-clad riot police hauling away HIV-positive protesters at a rally last year.
"People look at these blown-up pictures, and in the absence of any explanation of how HIV/AIDS is spread by the media, they think the police were wearing raincoats, surgical gloves and masks because the disease is easily spread," Lin told reporters.
Huang Ta-yuan (黃達元), a panelist in the conference and a lawyer in the Judicial Reform Foundation, an NGO comprised of legal reform-minded lawyers and professors, cited a recent survey conducted by the 1111 Jobs Bank.
According to a Central News Agency report yesterday, that survey found that 84 percent of Taiwanese journalists want to leave their jobs.
"The people who want to quit their jobs the most are reporters," Huang said.
Huang added that the media environment had deteriorated to the point where not even reporters can stand it.
Panelists and protesters yesterday were quick to add that reporters themselves were not necessarily to blame for their unprofessional conduct.
In most cases, reporters' editors and upper-level management are behind sensationalism in the media, or they pressure reporters to conduct themselves in ways that may prove commercially successful, but are unethical, the protesters said.
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