Taiwan press freedoms are eroding, critics say
For the past two years, Freedom House has downgraded Taiwan’s rating in its annual report on global press freedom. Critics say it's common for government propaganda to masquerade as 'news.'
(Page 2 of 2)
The politics of regulation
Still there's concern over the politicization of licensing by the National Communications Commission, which regulates the air waves.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Recently, Jimmy Lai, the Hong Kong media mogul who owns Taiwan’s largest newspaper, the Apple Daily, has complained that his company, Next Media, has been waiting for over a year for a license to operate a cable television network on the island. In a recent commentary for the Wall Street Journal, Lai blasted the government for the delay and for tightening control on Taiwan’s press.
One example of creeping government influence is the media's minimization of criticism of government policies and exaggeration of its achievements, says Guang, who teaches journalism at National Chung Cheng University. Examples include millions of tax dollars spent on "advertising" to promote an extravagant project, Taipei’s international floral exhibition, now attracting tens of thousands of tourists daily. More consequential was the historic Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), signed with Beijing last summer. The agreement received much positive publicity from a compliant news media as part of a political marketing campaign to inflate the promised benefits from China and belittle any critics.
“Taiwan’s news media are not yet independent,” says Guang. “Can the public really accept this?”
Self-censorship on China
That question is especially serious amid the backdrop of the changing ties with China. As the Nationalist-led government reconciles with China in closed-door talks and multiple agreements that have opened up commerce, investment, and transportation across the Taiwan Strait, it's the manipulation of China-related news and deals like the ECFA that he says most worry the public.
“In the past, criticizing China was not something we avoided,” Yao said. “Now there are many things that can’t be said. So many Chinese delegations and VIPs are arriving, so many agreements have been signed, and certain topics are no longer discussed.”
Nearly all the Taiwanese media practice self-censorship in reporting about China, agrees Chuang Feng-chia, senior editor at the independent website newtalk.tw and a past president of the Association of Taiwan Journalists.
Meanwhile, former China Times reporter Huang is hopeful that the revulsion he ignited over “buying” positive news coverage will stiffen the resolve of news professionals and the government to clean up their act. “I hope that in the future this will reform our media culture and end this practice,” he said.
Sam Lang contributed to this report.