Sat, Jun 30, 2018 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: Pierre Haski discusses press freedom, the future of RSF

France-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) president Pierre Haski, in an interview with ‘Taipei Times’ reporter Stacy Hsu and ‘Liberty Times’ (sister newspaper of the ‘Taipei Times’) reporter Lu Yi-hsuan, called for equal access for all reporters, regardless of their nationality, as he urged Taiwanese journalists to bring their exclusion from international events to the attention of a wider audience

Reporters Without Borders president Pierre Haski gestures during an interview in Taipei on Thursday.

Photo: Lu Yu-hsuan, Taipei Times

Taipei Times (TT): RSF opened its first East Asia representative office in Taipei last year. What is your vision for the office?

Pierre Haski: The purpose of the office is not just dealing with Taiwan; it is dealing with the whole region and it operates toward every single country. Now the office is issuing statements and brochures in languages aimed at Japan, [South] Korea and obviously China. It will diversify in the future toward all the languages in the region.

Also, the work of a bureau is to do in-depth studies on the dynamics of a region. For example, everybody is talking about fake news, but each case is different. It is very important to have an accurate perception and facts about what is going on in a region, because you cannot have a generalized speech about fake news worldwide.

Then will come the second phase: support for journalists who need assistance or security training. RSF is organizing regular workshops on digital security, [teaching journalists] how to protect their data and how to communicate without endangering their contacts. This is something we will be introducing with time.

TT: Although Taiwan has been praised for having the best press freedom in Asia, it is not without flaws, such as corporate influence and the political polarization of news outlets. What is your view on this?

Haski: Press freedom is always a relative concept. No one in the world has absolute press freedom, not even the No. 1 country in the classification, which is Norway. There is always room for improvement. You have to compare and Taiwan is better off than the other countries in the region.

I agreed there are flaws and concerns.

One is of global concern, which is the concentration of media in the hands of industrial groups. You have the Washington Post now belonging to Amazon.com. Our recommendation in Taiwan, as in everywhere else, is to have regulations to reinforce independence of the staff within those groups.

The second one is more of a Taiwanese concern, which is Chinese influence. It can be [done] through Taiwanese companies that have invested in China. Maybe they are not directly influencing the newspapers, but are pushing for self-censorship. Self-censorship is probably the worst form of censorship. It is something you have developed within yourself where you know where is the red line, beyond which you are looking for troubles. That is something people should be conscious of and journalists should discuss that because the best way of fighting self-censorship is transparency and openness.

The issue of polarization is a very difficult one, because there are many parts of the world in which there is strong polarization. This polarization is cultural, political, economic and social. You do not solve the problem purely within the media sphere. It is an issue that should be debated within the whole society.

TT: Do you think governments should enact laws to scrutinize big companies trying to take over media businesses?

Haski: I am always suspicious of laws regarding media. It is not that I do not think the media sector should not be regulated. There need to be regulations and they can be protective of the independence of the media. However, there is always the temptation for any government, anywhere in the world, to take a little bit more than is needed.

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