The media environment in Taiwan is in a state of crisis, one that did not fully capture the public’s imagination until someone from deep inside said he’d had enough and resigned.
US-based Freedom House may have called it “one of the freest in Asia,” but Taiwanese media are under severe pressure and many indicators are pointing in the wrong direction. The signs were there, but it took reporter Huang Je-bing’s (黃哲斌) resignation from the China Times on Dec. 12, after 16 years of service, to draw attention to the severity of the problem and prompt fellow journalists into action.
The source of Huang’s discontent was the growing practice of government product placement in the media to promote its policies, which in effect constitutes the masquerading of propaganda as news.
The potential for abuse is self-evident, especially when we put it in the context of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) administration’s friendly attitude toward one of Asia’s worst offenders in terms of media freedom: China.
Though the practice has already been characterized as “rampant,” it can only intensify as the Ma government tries to sell more of its controversial cross-strait policies (as they are bound to emerge) to an increasingly skeptical Taiwanese audience.
Beyond Huang’s complaints are other equally worrying trends, all of which appear to be directly or indirectly related to Ma’s policy of engaging Beijing. Some media conglomerates with business interests in China, for example, have been good students of Beijing and are now applying the same kind of self--censorship that makes reporters’ lives there so difficult. Furthermore, unsubtle directives to state-owned media to tone down criticism of Ma’s administration added to growing evidence that political reporting is being discouraged to make room for business news, should give us pause (a quick glance at a Singaporean newspaper should be sufficient to highlight the shortcomings of politically sanitized publications operating in a “soft authoritarian” environment).
It gets worse. Laws that have been implemented or are being considered, such as the Computer-Processed Personal Data Protection Act (電腦處理個人資料保護法) and amendments to the Children and Youth Welfare Act (兒童及少年福利法), will make it increasingly difficult for reporters to access critical information on individuals or, for example, to describe scenes of violence. The first gives government agencies arbitrary authority to decide what kind of information can be released in “the public interest,” while the latter, though meant to protect children, can also unduly embellish reality and prevent key information from being made public.
In and of themselves, such measures could have a beneficial effect on society, but in the wrong hands, they could quickly turn into instruments of repression, just as nuclear energy can be used to provide electricity or annihilate cities.
All of this is occurring under the shadow of calls by senior Chinese officials for greater media cooperation across the Taiwan Strait, which, because of Beijing’s unyielding stance on freedom of expression, can only have a corrupting, if not chilling, effect on the media this side of the strait.
Before it’s too late, let us hope that more whistleblowers like Huang, people with integrity and a sense of civic responsibility — not just in the media, but also in academia and government — will sound the alarm. Reporters are not being rounded up or attacked like in Russia or China, but the muzzling effect, though subtle, exists nonetheless and is inexorably chipping away at citizens’ right to unfiltered and unaltered information.
For Xi Jinping (習近平) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the military conquest of Taiwan is an absolute requirement for the CCP’s much more fantastic ambition: control over our solar system. Controlling Taiwan will allow the CCP to dominate the First Island Chain and to better neutralize the Philippines, decreasing the threat to the most important People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Strategic Support Force (SSF) space base, the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan Island. Satellite and manned space launches from the Jiuquan and Xichang Satellite Launch Centers regularly pass close to Taiwan, which is also a very serious threat to the PLA,
Taiwan is beautiful — no doubt about it. In Taipei, the streets are clean, the skyline is gorgeous and the subway is world-class. The coastline is easily accessible and mountains can be seen in the distance. The people are hardworking, successful and busy. Every luxury known to humankind is available and people live on their smartphones. As an American visiting for the first time, here are some things I learned about the country. First, people from Taiwan and America love freedom and democracy and have for many years. When we defeated Japan in 1945, Taiwan was freed from Japanese rule. In
The ultimate end of a situation in which communists are in charge of a capitalist economy is economic depression, with China’s economic woes the prime example. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime has suspended monthly reports on youth unemployment, which had previously been at a record high, going beyond 20 percent and rising. It is often joked about in academic circles that when a national laboratory has made a great discovery, the institution will quickly call a news conference to announce it to the world, but when the research has been a total failure, the institution will keep it under wraps. The
Taiwan’s first indigenous defense submarine prototype, the Hai Kun (SS-711), is to be launched tomorrow and undergo underwater testing next month. It is a major breakthrough in upgrading the nation’s self-defense capabilities, and would make it more difficult for China to blockade Taiwan. Facing Beijing’s escalating military threats and ambitions of expanding across the Taiwan Strait, a domestically developed submarine was first proposed in the 1990s under then-president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝). The Indigenous Defense Submarine (IDS) program was formally initiated in 2016, as President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office, with the aim of creating a fleet of eight domestically developed submarines. The