Friday, May 04, 2007

Psalmanazar at DKos, WHO Entry

The first Taiwanese in Europe, Psalmanazar, blogs at DailyKos on the problem of press freedom and the UN on World Press Freedom Day:

The practice of denying Taiwan’s professional journalists press accreditation to the World Health Assembly began in 2004, when the United Nation’s Geneva Office took over responsibility for handling the media for the event. It is ironic that before 2004 the WHO saw absolutely no problem in handing out press passes to Taiwan’s professional journalists to cover the WHA meeting while it continued to deny their country of origin the right to similarly observe that event.

But in May 2004 the UN’s Geneva office suddenly decreed that only journalists who could produce a passport from a country recognized by the UN and another form of photo ID would receive accreditation, a decision that effectively barred the majority of Taiwanese journalists because the UN doesn’t recognize Taiwan nor the rights of its 23 million citizens. That year only two Taiwanese journalists were given press credentials, and this was only because they happened to possess American and British passports. When asked about the sudden reversal in policy, chief of the Geneva office’s press and external relations section said that the UN doesn’t recognize Taiwan as a state and that the reporters’ Taiwan passports were merely “local passports”.

The UN’s decision to deny Taiwanese journalists accreditation raises two troubling questions. The first deals with Taiwan’s ability and right to receive timely information pertaining to the health of its citizens. Once again we can turn to the WHO’s own charter to see that keeping Taiwan out of the information loop is against the spirit, if not the letter of the WHO’s stated commitment to health. The constitution’s preface states that “[i]nformed opinion and active cooperation on the part of the public are of the utmost importance in the improvement of the health of the people.” As I discussed in my last entry, the Taiwan government’s ability to communicate and share data with the WHO continues to be degraded by the month. As bad as this is, the argument could be made that these communications could also be made via other channels like the media. The Geneva office’s decision to deny Taiwan’s reporters access to the WHA and its policy-planning sessions closes that remaining channel, leaving Taiwan dependent on second- or third-hand information about these meetings and unable to form the very “informed opinions” on public health that the WHO hopes to provide the world’s people.

The diary coincides with a renewed drive by Taiwan's foreign ministry to enter the WHO. The GIO unveiled a new ad yesterday:

The Government Information Office (GIO) yesterday unveiled a new advertisement to promote the nation's bid to participate in the WHO.

On the advertisement, WHO is written as "WHC," with the "C" representing an incomplete "O" to deliver the message that as Taiwan is not yet a member, the organization is not complete.

"As you can see, on the advertisement, WHO is written as `WHC' because Taiwan is not in the organization so the `O' is not complete," GIO deputy minister William Yih (易榮宗) said.

The WHO Secretariat rejected Taiwan's latest bid to participate in the organization on April 25 after President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) sent a letter on April 11 to WHO Director-General Margaret Chan (陳馮富珍) asking that the country be allowed to join the health body.

There was also a small demonstration in front of the American Institute in Taiwan, hoping to attract US support for the island's WHO bid.


Anonymous said...

It seems like soft-power diplomacy is the only way for Taiwan to get into the WHO.

Just a suggestion: Perhaps what Taiwan can do is setup a hospital complex in Kuwait with the mission of administering care to all the bomb victims in Iraq. Hire some good PR staff that can subliminally bring this act of good will to the attention of global citizens, just like Doctors Without Borders (MSF) does. Perhaps also tie it into the 100 dollar laptops built by Taiwanese company Quanta. (while recuperating, the victim and families can learn something) ~ Perhaps a good spokesperson Taiwan should hire for this is Alan Alda, most Americans remember him for his MASH days. If china does not allow this because of diplomatic recognition, then this can be used against them.

I don't see any other way Taiwan can change anyone's opinion. The US in particular is too tied into Chinese reinvesting their trade dollars back into the US economy. The can't rock this boat. On top of that, Bush's call for supporting democracy is a shame. He could care less about Taiwan. Its not even a blip on his radar.

related article

Anonymous said...

as a taiwanese, it's sad to see taiwan is rejected by WHO and other organizations in the world. Do 23m poeple in taiwan not important? It feels like we are deserted by the whole world.
there are people who working hard to let the world hear the voices from taiwan, and it's good if the world can sees them. <-- it's a weblog aims to let the world has more understanding about taiwan!
hope people can vist this weblog, read some article and leave your opinion.