Attacks on the Press 2004: Taiwan

Taiwan

In 2004, the competitive and outspoken Taiwanese press reported critically on the government, corruption, and world affairs. Taiwanese journalists faced largely economic pressures, and the highly partisan coverage of a contentious election year raised questions about financial and political influence over the press.

For decades, Taiwan's media were under the direct control of the Kuomintang (KMT, or nationalist party). The election of President Chen Shui-bian in 2000 ended more than 50 years of undisputed KMT rule. New media ownership laws—passed in 2003 and implemented in 2004—forced political parties to sell their media stocks and were widely seen as a positive step. But CPJ sources said the laws did little to check the growing economic influence of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which was under the leadership of Chen until the party's December legislative election losses.

In September, a pro-KMT think tank released a report charging that the DPP was financially manipulating the media, rewarding pro-DPP outlets with government advertising and financing from the state-controlled banking system. It also alleged that cronyism has been at play in the elevation of DPP supporters to the helms of major broadcast media outlets.

In October, the president sued television talk show host Jaw Shao-kong for civil libel, disputing an assertion that Taiwan had given US$1 million to former Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso. Jaw is a former political rival of Chen, and the suit appeared to be an effort by the president to punish his longtime adversary. Local journalists feared that the case would have a chilling effect. Jaw countersued, and both cases were pending at year's end.

News coverage was dominated by the March presidential election, which Chen narrowly won. There was a failed assassination attempt against the president and Vice President Annette Lu just before the poll, and KMT supporters alleged that the DPP had staged the shooting to gain sympathy votes. On April 10, protesters demonstrating against Chen's re-election outside the presidential office attacked 14 journalists. At least one, cameraman Huang Hsin-hao of Era News, was hospitalized.

Tensions remained high with mainland China, which considers Taiwan a renegade province and has threatened to take the territory by force. As a result, Chen's government is very sensitive about media coverage of military and security affairs, and repressive national-security laws remain on the books. In August, Taiwan's High Court upheld the sedition conviction of reporter Hung Che-cheng of the now defunct paper Jin Pao (Power News). The case stemmed from Hung's 2000 article revealing that a Chinese warship had entered the Taiwan Straits during Chen's inauguration that year. Hung's 18-month prison sentence was reduced to 12 months and suspended indefinitely.

In June, Taiwan temporarily denied a visa to a reporter assigned to Taipei by the Chinese government–run People's Daily, apparently in retaliation to proposed Chinese economic sanctions against Taiwan. Taiwan still bans broadcasts from China's state-owned China Central Television, which were suspended in 2003 in response to China's refusal to broadcast Taiwanese television stations.

In 2004, the competitive and outspoken Taiwanese press reported critically on the government, corruption, and world affairs. Taiwanese journalists faced largely economic pressures, and the highly partisan coverage of a contentious election year raised questions about financial and political influence over the press.

For decades, Taiwan's media were under the direct control of the Kuomintang (KMT, or nationalist party). The election of President Chen Shui-bian in 2000 ended more than 50 years of undisputed KMT rule. New media ownership laws—passed in 2003 and implemented in 2004—forced political parties to sell their media stocks and were widely seen as a positive step. But CPJ sources said the laws did little to check the growing economic influence of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which was under the leadership of Chen until the party's December legislative election losses.

In September, a pro-KMT think tank released a report charging that the DPP was financially manipulating the media, rewarding pro-DPP outlets with government advertising and financing from the state-controlled banking system. It also alleged that cronyism has been at play in the elevation of DPP supporters to the helms of major broadcast media outlets.

In October, the president sued television talk show host Jaw Shao-kong for civil libel, disputing an assertion that Taiwan had given US$1 million to former Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso. Jaw is a former political rival of Chen, and the suit appeared to be an effort by the president to punish his longtime adversary. Local journalists feared that the case would have a chilling effect. Jaw countersued, and both cases were pending at year's end.

News coverage was dominated by the March presidential election, which Chen narrowly won. There was a failed assassination attempt against the president and Vice President Annette Lu just before the poll, and KMT supporters alleged that the DPP had staged the shooting to gain sympathy votes. On April 10, protesters demonstrating against Chen's re-election outside the presidential office attacked 14 journalists. At least one, cameraman Huang Hsin-hao of Era News, was hospitalized.

Tensions remained high with mainland China, which considers Taiwan a renegade province and has threatened to take the territory by force. As a result, Chen's government is very sensitive about media coverage of military and security affairs, and repressive national-security laws remain on the books. In August, Taiwan's High Court upheld the sedition conviction of reporter Hung Che-cheng of the now defunct paper Jin Pao (Power News). The case stemmed from Hung's 2000 article revealing that a Chinese warship had entered the Taiwan Straits during Chen's inauguration that year. Hung's 18-month prison sentence was reduced to 12 months and suspended indefinitely.

In June, Taiwan temporarily denied a visa to a reporter assigned to Taipei by the Chinese government–run People's Daily, apparently in retaliation to proposed Chinese economic sanctions against Taiwan. Taiwan still bans broadcasts from China's state-owned China Central Television, which were suspended in 2003 in response to China's refusal to broadcast Taiwanese television stations.


March 14, 2005 11:09 AM ET |

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