The Washington-based Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA) is calling on Taiwan’s government and media regulators to stop the sale of four Taiwanese outlets of the Next Media Group to a consortium in which Want Want China Times Group chairman Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明) has a controlling interest.
FAPA president Mark Kao (高龍榮) said Taipei should disallow the sale and find a solution that respects media diversity “in keeping with the values of freedom and democracy.”
In a statement issued on Friday, FAPA expressed “deep concern about the erosion of press freedom in Taiwan.”
Its concern has been triggered by worries that the Next Media Group’s four Taiwanese outlets — Apple Daily, Sharp Daily, Next Magazine and Next TV — would be muzzled by its new owners.
Tsai has a reputation for being pro-China and FAPA fears that he will suppress criticism of the Chinese government.
FAPA said that following his takeover of the China Times in 2008, many editors and reporters at the Taiwanese daily who had written stories critical of the Chinese government were reportedly asked to leave.
According to a complaint by the Association of Taiwan Journalists the sale of Next Media (Taiwan), to Want Want China Times would violate the anti-monopoly and fair competition stipulations of the Fair Trade Act (公平交易法).
The deal now awaits official approval by Next Media’s shareholders and Taiwanese regulators — the Fair Trade Commission and the National Communications Commission.
“Regrettably, this development is part of a wider pattern of eroding press freedoms that we have observed, beginning in 2008 when President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), came to power,” Kao said.
He said Tsai’s Want Want China Times Group had become the “main vehicle for the creeping influence of pro-China interests and opinions” in Taiwan.
Kao called on the Taiwanese government and media regulators to stop the sale and said that Taiwanese-Americans would bring the issue to the attention of the US government.