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CPJ Press Release
For Immediate Release
15 March 1996

Vikram Parekh
(212) 465-1004 x109

Taiwanese Press Faces Obstacles at Home and in China

CPJ Cites Lack of Level Playing Field in Taiwan, Harassment of Taiwanese Reporters by China on Eve of Taiwanese Elections

NEW YORK--Beijing's expulsion of two Taiwanese reporters last weekend is but one of several challenges facing the Taiwanese media on the eve of the island's first direct presidential elections, reports the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

On Sunday, China deported Shui An-teh and Chuang Chi-wei, both reporters for Taiwan Television Enterprise (TTE), after detaining them for two days for videotaping Chinese troops conducting military exercises in southeastern Fujian province. According to the official Xinhua News Agency, the two journalists signed written confessions of their wrongdoing--a usual condition of release for foreign journalists detained in China. Upon arriving in Hong Kong, however, Shui and Chuang said they were unaware that they had been taping in a restricted area and maintained that they were engaged in ordinary reporting activities. Fujian province has been the staging ground for recent Chinese missile tests, widely seen as an attempt to intimidate Taiwanese voters from supporting pro-independence candidates.

"Taiwanese reporters should be free to report on scare tactics that are directly aimed at influencing the outcome of Taiwan's election," said William A. Orme, Jr., CPJ's executive director. "However, the detention of the two reporters fits a pattern of continued harassment by China of Taiwanese journalists," he added.

Reporters for Taiwan's state-owned media have repeatedly been shut out of the General Assembly by United Nations officials in New York, acting under apparent pressure from China. In February 1994, for example, Taiwanese television reporters Ming Young and Chiou Yueh--who had been accredited at the United Nations since 1990 and 1992, respectively--were abruptly denied renewal of their press passes.

Taiwan itself has made major strides toward press freedom in recent years. The print media is privately owned, as are a growing number of radio stations. According to the Committee, however, there remains substantial room for improvement. Taiwanese authorities ended a yearlong series of violent crackdowns on unlicensed radio stations in early 1995, but they now jam the broadcasters' frequencies and continue to impose fines on station owners. Pirate radio's growth was fueled in recent years by immensely popular call-in programs, which offered ordinary Taiwanese a chance to air discontent with government policies.

Taiwan's government also retains ownership of the island's three licensed television stations. According to both the political opposition and independent journalists, those stations have devoted the lion's share of their campaign coverage to incumbent president Lee Teng-hui. A start-up private television company--the People Broadcasting Corporation, whose board includes Hsu Hsin-liang, the presidential candidate of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party--was granted a broadcasting license last year. But stiff capitalization requirements have kept it from going on the air in time for the elections.

Based in New York, CPJ is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to upholding press freedom worldwide.

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