Taiwan has won the distinction of being listed as having Asia’s freest media environment for the second consecutive year in the annual Freedom House report.
The US non-governmental organization’s Freedom of the Press 2008 report released on Tuesday in advance of World Press Freedom Day on Saturday lists Taiwan as one of only three Asian countries with “free” media.
“The survey shows that freedom of speech in Taiwan is highly regarded by Freedom House, and that is an honor for all of Taiwan’s people,” Government Information Office Minister Shieh Jhy-wey (謝志偉) said yesterday.
In the face of a decline in global press freedom over the past six straight years, Taiwan has continued moving up the Freedom House rankings, Shieh said.
Of the 195 countries and territories included in the rankings, Taiwan was listed 32nd, up one place from last year. This year’s score for Taiwan was its best ever. Taiwan’s ranking was the highest in Asia, ahead of Japan at 35 and South Korea at 67 — the only three Asian countries where the report lists the media as “free.”
Hong Kong was also ranked 67th.
Freedom House rated each country’s legal, political and economic environment, as well as the degree to which each of these factors affected media freedom.
In its draft report, Freedom House attributed Taiwan’s free media environment to its commitment to judicial independence, economic freedom and a highly competitive media market.
“The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and the government generally respects these rights in practice. Taiwanese media are vigorous and lively, regularly criticizing government policy and top officials,” the report said.
In the survey, 72 countries, or 37 percent, were rated as “free,” while 59 nations, or 30 percent, were described as “partly free” and 64 countries, or 33 percent, as “not free.”
China continued to be rated as “not free,” with a global ranking of 181, the same as the previous year.
Freedom House said that China last year tightened media control and Internet restrictions in preparation for the 17th Communist Party Congress, and imprisoned more online journalists and bloggers, despite moderate breakthroughs for investigative journalism and regulations providing somewhat greater access to foreign correspondents.
“In general, journalists who attempted to investigate or report on controversial issues, criticized the [Chinese] Communist Party or presented a perspective contrary to state propaganda continued to suffer harassment, job loss, abuse and detention,” the report said.
Global media freedom watchdogs estimate that at least 29 journalists and 51 cyber-dissidents were in prison in China at the end of last year, more than any other country, while at least nine journalists and online writers were detained during the year over information they had published on the Internet, it said.
Myanmar, Cuba, Libya, North Korea and Turkmenistan, which remained among the worst-rated countries on the list, were joined by Eritrea last year, while a crackdown in Myanmar worsened that country’s already repressive media environment, leaving its score second only to that of North Korea, Freedom House said.
TAIPEI REACTIONS: Joanne Ou decried China’s ‘gangster diplomacy,’ while MOFA said its Fiji counterpart dealt fairly with the incident and protected the trade office’s rights The world should denounce the actions of Chinese embassy staffers in Fiji against a Taiwanese diplomat during a National Day celebration in Suva, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said yesterday as it thanked the Fijian government for its help after the Oct. 8 incident. Two Chinese diplomats tried to force their way into a celebration held by the Taipei Trade Office in Fiji at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva on Oct. 8, and a Taiwanese diplomat who tried to stop them taking photographs suffered a head injury. MOFA spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) told a news briefing that the ministry
The US, Japan and Australia conducted trilateral naval exercises in the South China Sea on Monday, the US Seventh Fleet announced yesterday. It was their fifth joint operations this year in the fleet’s area of operations, it said in a statement. The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain joined the JS Kirisame of the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force and the Royal Australian Navy’s HMAS Arunta. The Arunta’s commanding officer, Commander Troy Duggan, said that Australia was continuing to build on its already close relationship with Japan and the US. “This activity is a valuable and important opportunity for all three nations,”
ONGOING PROBE: A former Military Intelligence Bureau colonel, major general and another colonel, as well as five other people, have been questioned by prosecutors The Taipei District Court yesterday ordered that a retired colonel from the Military Intelligence Bureau (MIB) calling himself Taiwan’s “first special agent” be detained and held incommunicado as part of an ongoing investigation into espionage allegations targeting at least three former bureau officials. The Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office was seeking to detain former MIB colonel Chang Chao-jan (張超然) over his alleged involvement in introducing retired agents to Chinese national security authorities and passing confidential documents to China. Chang’s actions, if proven, would contravene the National Security Act (國家安全法), which carries a prison term of three to 10 years, and the National Intelligence
Seabed waste off the west coast is 1.5 times higher than the global average, with the mouth of the Tamsui River (淡水河) nearly 90 times dirtier, the environmental consultancy IndigoWaters (澄洋環境顧問) said yesterday. The firm in September last year began collaborating with local oceanographers on Taiwan’s first survey of seabed waste off the west coast, collecting 6,000 samples from near the mouths of eight rivers and conducting 215 inspections. Of the samples, 83.3 percent were found to contain trash, the group said. Based on the survey, every square kilometer of seabed had about 121,074 pieces of trash weighing 102kg, IndigoWaters chief executive Yen