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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The absence of the Taiwan media

It sounds like a conspiracy to me!

Taipei Times: By Flora Chang 張錦華 Tuesday, Jul 10, 2007, Page 8

`[T]he vast majority of media outlets were either blind to the event or gave only the briefest sketch of what happened. This begs the question: How much of our media is controlled by the Chinese Communist Party?'

Imagine that the Taiwanese government for some reason forcibly sent back a few hundred Japanese or US passengers -- all who held legal visas to come here -- as they prepared to land at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport. It would be a major human rights violation against foreigners in Taiwan. Imagine the lengthy media reports of these passengers' anger, the level of criticism that would be leveled against government officials at every level and the charges of dereliction of duty.

But that's a different story. Instead, a group of Taiwanese on their way to the Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region of China, were going to arrive close to the same time that the Chinese leader Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) was about to participate in ceremonies celebrating the 10th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong.

The ceremonies praised the success of the "one country, two systems" model. Only a few Taiwanese media reported on these Taiwanese being turned back ? the Liberty Times (the Taipei Times' sister paper), Formosa TV, Chinese Television System, TVBS and the China Times.

These exceptions aside, the vast majority of media outlets were either blind to the event or gave only the briefest sketch of what happened. This begs the question: How much of our media is controlled by the Chinese Communist Party? And why are they only reporting on the celebrations and Hong Kong's glorious scenery?

It is true that the majority of the victims were Falun Gong students. But if Falun Gong students' legal and human rights can be violated, who knows what other Taiwanese person can be persecuted?

We all know that Falun Gong practioners are not the only ones to be oppressed by the Chinese Communist Party over the years. A short list would include Taiwanese businessmen, religious figures, democracy activists, people who belong to "objectionable" associations, the Uygur people, journalists and the countless Chinese cheated by corrupt public figures. One by one, each of these groups has suffered at the hands of the CCP.

Their goals are justice and a government that respects liberties and the rule of law. They want an end to collusion with and control over the media that prevents expositions on the injustice occurring throughout China. They only hope to see everyone respected and an end to cruel behavior.

However, the Chinese media can do nothing under the control of the system. Only a few respected journalists are still struggling to end censorship and expose corruption and privilege. Unfortunately, these people, just like other human rights activists, are often forced to resign, held in detention, and see their organizations closed down. For most of the media, they can merely play the role of a mouthpiece willingly or unwillingly under various regulations, in order to present the false appearance of peace and prosperity.

Isn't Taiwan a free society? Shouldn't its free media uncover all faults so as to protect people's rights?

Many friends in the media told me that their supervisors ordered them not to report anything about Falun Gong and its logo should never appear on TV because Chinese leaders do not like it. As a result, many Taiwanese media no longer report about it.

Behind the self-censorship, I believe that no journalist likes his or her freedoms curtailed. So what causes it? Lures or threats?

Various business and private exchanges between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are close.

The Taiwanese media certainly has the responsibility to protect people's right to know, as well as to supervise cross-strait human rights conditions. Hence, the amount of reporting local media do on cross-strait human right issues is a key index of freedom.

Flora Chang is a professor at National Taiwan University's Graduate Institute of Journalism.

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