Press freedom threatened in Taiwan

byDana Liebelson
Jan 6, 2011 in Journalism Basics

Since the lifting of martial law in 1987, Taiwan has enjoyed a relatively high level of media freedom compared to its Asian neighbors. But now, press freedom is declining in Taiwan due to growing government interference, according to several new reports. Between 2008 and 2009, Taiwan dropped from 36th to 59th place on a press freedom index published by the media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders. Freedom House, an independent watchdog group, has also downgraded Taiwan's press freedom ranking for the past two years.

Government advertisements and propaganda are regularly found in the news, according to a report by The Christian Science Monitor (CSM). As a result, government criticism is often downplayed, while its achievements are aggrandized.

And the government continues to revoke broadcast licenses, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal. One station that had invested nearly US$120 million in its television launch was denied a license because the government subjectively decided the company might not "fulfill its social responsibilities." There is also fear that a bill recently introduced by the government, intended to ban violent and pornographic material, will be used for censorship.

CSM reports that this manipulation of Taiwan's news is particularly serious in regards to reporting on China. A former political prisoner told the paper: "In the past, criticizing China was not something we avoided … now there are many things that can't be said."