Media freedom threatened: CPJ

By William Lowther  /  Staff Reporter in WASHINGTON

Fri, Feb 18, 2011 - Page 3

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) says concerns are growing that Taiwan’s media freedom “may be compromised.”

“The culprits include some journalists themselves, promoting China to preserve their own business interests, and Taiwan’s Kuomintang [Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)] government, apparently attempting to exert control over the media through legislation,” says a paper published on the CPJ Web site this week.

Written by CPJ senior researcher Madeline Earp, the paper says: “Many Taiwanese journalists say advertising disguised as news coverage has become the norm.”

“Against the backdrop of these concerns comes news that Taiwan’s legislature is considering amendments to the Children and Youth Welfare Act (兒童及少年福利法) that could interfere with reporting freedom,” Earp said. “An NGO called the Child Welfare League Foundation is supporting the amendments, which are designed to protect minors by forbidding media outlets from describing or illustrating illegal actions, violence or erotica.”

Earp says that many journalists have protested that the amendments amount to “imprecise and unnecessary” -restrictions on their rights to publish.

She quotes an article in the Wall Street Journal as saying that the wording of the amendment has the potential to impact the reporting of every crime and every accident, “not to mention every embarrassing misadventure by a Taiwanese politician.”

Earp says that while some Taiwanese journalists concede there is a need for self-regulation, “they are concerned that the government’s intervention is weakening press freedom.”

In earlier testimony before the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, Earp said that journalists from Hong Kong and Taiwan had told CPJ they feared China’s increasing economic influence was eroding press freedom.

She said that her organization was “very worried about signs of creeping repression” that seemed to be spreading from China.

Earp said that she believed that under “the increasing rapport” between Taiwan and China, certain stories would be handled more and more “delicately.”

She said that within China, virtually any subject that might highlight shortcomings in the political system and cause embarrassment to the government remained a legitimate target of suppression in the eyes of Beijing’s “vast censorship system.”