Taiwan’s efforts to cement ties with China could undermine its vibrant media environment by skirting topics deemed sensitive to Beijing, observers say.
Concern has grown after Taiwan’s ranking fell 23 places to 59th place in this year’s press freedom index released by Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) last week.
The sharp drop has left Taiwan trailing behind Hong Kong, which came in at 48, as well as African nations such as Ghana, Mali and Burkina Faso.
In one example of the problems Taiwan’s journalists say they are facing, one reporter complained about pressure from the authorities when covering an exiled Chinese dissident’s visit.
“They told me he’s a ‘bad guy’ who likes to brag so why bother writing about him,” the reporter, who asked not to be named, said. “They believe they are doing the right thing for the big picture, for the greater good in history.”
While RSF said Taiwan’s press freedom was not in danger, it attributed the downgrading partly to the ruling party’s attempts to interfere in the media.
“The state must take action to improve records and prevent restrictions, violence or any sort of obstacle to the media freedom,” said Vincent Brossel, head of RSF’s Asia desk.
The index, based on questionnaires completed by hundreds of journalists and media experts, reflects press freedom violations that took place between September last year and August this year.
The government has denied interfering.
“We did not see any media being pressured for criticizing the government when it was not doing enough. The government humbly accepted the criticism,” Cabinet Spokesman Su Jun-pin (蘇俊賓) said.
Some observers and journalists say the RSF index is a warning of how far Taiwan is prepared to go to appease its giant neighbor.
“More media outlets are self-censoring on sensitive issues such as the Dalai Lama or Rebiya Kadeer by downplaying their coverage or focusing on negative angles,” said Leon Chuang (莊豐嘉), head of the Association of Taiwan Journalists.
Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama of trying to separate Tibet from China and blames Kadeer for bloody ethnic unrest in her home region Xinjiang in July.
It all comes down to business, as public and private sectors aim to cash in on China’s economic clout, Chuang said, adding: “It is a threat to Taiwan’s press freedom and diversity. If this persists, we will only be getting select coverage and one-sided stories.”
Ties with China have improved since President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) became president but were strained by the Dalai Lama’s recent visit. Beijing was also angered by screening of a Kadeer biopic but reportedly is planning to reward Taipei by signing a key financial pact after she was barred from visiting.
“We see political considerations weighing on the handling of news as the government makes the development of cross-strait ties its priority,” said Lo Shih-hung (羅世宏), a media expert at National Chung Cheng University.
BILINGUAL PLAN: The 17 educators were recruited under a program that seeks to empower Taiwanese, the envoy to the Philippines said The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in the Philippines on Thursday hosted a send-off event for the first group of English-language teachers from the country who were recruited for a Ministry of Education-initiated program to advance bilingual education in Taiwan. The 14 teachers and three teaching assistants are part of the Taiwan Foreign English Teacher Program, which aims to help find English-language instructors for Taiwan’s public elementary and junior-high schools, the office said. Seventy-seven teachers and 11 teaching assistants from the Philippines have been hired to teach in Taiwan in the coming school year, office data showed. Among the first group is 57-year-old
Police have detained a Taoyuan couple suspected of over the past two months colluding with human trafficking rings and employment scammers in Southeast Asia to send nearly 100 Taiwanese jobseekers to Cambodia. At a media briefing in Taipei yesterday, the Criminal Investigation Bureau presented items seized from the couple, including alleged victims’ passports, forged COVID-19 vaccination records, mobile phones, bank documents, checks and cash. The man, surnamed Tsai (蔡), and his girlfriend, surnamed Tsan (詹), were taken into custody last month, after police at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport stopped four jobseekers from boarding a flight to Phnom Penh, said Dustin Lee (李泱輯),
‘ORDINARY PEOPLE’: A man watching Taiwanese military drills said that there would be nothing anyone could do if the situation escalates in the Taiwan Strait Many people in Taiwan look upon China’s military exercises over the past week with calm resignation, doubting that war is imminent and if anything, feeling pride in their nation’s determination to defend itself. After a visit to Taiwan last week by US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, China has sent ships and aircraft across an unofficial buffer between Taiwan and China’s coast and missiles over Taipei and into waters surrounding the nation since Thursday last week. However, Rosa Chang, proudly watching her son take part in Taiwanese military exercises that included dozens of howitzers firing shells into the Taiwan Strait off
TRAPPED IN CAMBODIA: A woman said that a job offer in Cambodia led to her being imprisoned in a fenced industrial park, where she was sold four times in a week An inter-ministerial task force has been set up by the Executive Yuan to tackle the issue of Taiwanese being lured to Cambodia with promises of high-paying jobs, but getting stuck there as targets of human trafficking, Executive Yuan spokesman Lo Ping-cheng (羅秉成) said on Thursday. Legislators, including Lin Chun-hsien (林俊憲) of the Democratic Progressive Party, told a news conference that a task force should be set up to address problems exposed by reports of Taiwanese being lured to Cambodia, Myanmar and other countries with promises of lucrative jobs before being forced into illegal work while being subject to abuse. Later in the