Taiwan Indigenous Television (TITV) chief Masao Aki stirred up controversy earlier this week when he used his Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) identification card as his Facebook profile picture, prompting concern from TITV reporters that the station could be linked with the pan-blue camp as a result of Masao’s action.
In response to the concern raised over his Facebook profile, Masao said: “It’s the age of democracy, relax.”
He said Facebook is a personal space, adding that he did not mention in his Facebook profile his position as chief of TITV.
However, despite that, those who know Masao and who comment on his Facebook page always address him as “channel chief” with posts involving discussion of Aboriginal news.
A reporter who contributed stories to TITV’s Web Access to Tribal Actions, a Web site promoting “local viewpoints” and “making the voices of the tribes heard,” left a comment on Masao’s Facebook page suggesting that he at least take the KMT name off of the photo he used in his profile. In response, Masao replied: “That can’t be done. My religion is ... [the founding father of the Republic of China] Sun Yat-sen (孫中山).”
Some staff at TITV also expressed disapproval of Masao’s action.
Noting that the Public Television Service has repeatedly asked that political parties relinquish their roles in the media, as employees are concerned about being labeled as a supporter of a particular political party, some staff in TITV’s news department expressed concern that Masao’s action would harm the station’s image and they feared that reporters may censor their stories in line with Masao’s political stance.
TITV, funded by the Indigenous People’s Cultural Foundations (IPCF), is part of the Taiwan Broadcasting System.
Kuang Chung-hsiang (管中祥), chairman of the Taiwan Media Watch Educational Foundation, said those in the media should be extra careful, regardless of personal or public domains, adding that though expression of political stance doesn’t equate to political activity, the unnecessary conjecture harms one’s professional identity.
While the Council of Indigenous Peoples considered the affair Masao’s personal business, IPCF chief executive Wsay Kolas said that a channel chief should maintain the principle of neutrality, adding that since Masao had professed an interest in running for channel chief again in June, the timing and sensitivity of the issue was unwise.
New Taipei City Councilor Icyang Parod of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) cited the recent incident involving DPP member Yang Hui-ju (楊蕙如), who caused a stir by publishing alleged poll results of the party’s presidential primary on micro-blogging service Plurk and later offered a public apology over the matter, used that episode as an example of how Facebook is not a private personal space.
Citing a request from “upper levels,” which he did not elaborate on, Masao on Thursday night changed his profile picture to a photo of a cat.