Friday, October 10, 2008

International Federation of Journalists condemn KMT interference in the media

A major journalist organization condemned the worrisome trends in KMT handling of the media....

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has expressed fears for the independence of Taiwan’s media after escalating instances of government interference in state-owned media.

The IFJ has learned that the Government Information Office (GIO) demanded on September 26 that the state-owned Central News Agency (CNA) alter reports on the contaminated milk powder scandal which has engulfed China.

GIO also demanded that CNA withdraw a report which criticised President Ma Ying-Jeou, who took office on May 20 after the Kuomintang (Nationalist) party won elections in March.

GIO was also implicated recently in a scandal after the chairman of Radio Taiwan International (RTI), Taiwan’s state-owned broadcaster, claimed that the Government had asked RTI not to broadcast reports that were too critical of China.

RTI chairman Cheng Yu and several independent board directors of RTI resigned on September 30 in protest after news reports suggested that GIO and the new Kuomintang government had put pressure on RTI to change its editorial focus. GIO denied the reports.

An anonymous source told the IFJ that Taiwan’s Government was angered by RTI’s frequent criticism of President Ma Ying-Jeou. RTI has 13 language services which broadcast worldwide, including into mainland China.

In another recent development, the Government appointed Lo Chih-Chiang, a former spokesperson for President Ma Ying-Jeou’s campaign, to the position of Deputy President of CNA in early October. The Kuomintang party also nominated four government legislators to new positions on the Board of Supervisors for Taiwan’s Public Television Service.

“Taiwan’s new Government is exhibiting worrying reflexes towards attempting to control the media,” IFJ Asia-Pacific said.

“These latest appointments and directives suggest the Government fails to understand the critical importance of editorial independence in a democratic society.”

The IFJ condemns Taiwan’s apparent interference in state-owned media and urges government authorities to refrain from further acts that could jeopardise editorial independence.

For more information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919

The IFJ represents over 600,000 in 122 countries worldwide

The DPP also slammed the Ma Administration:

CNA reporters have been asked to reduce coverage of nongovernment stories or even to ignore those stories completely,” DPP deputy caucus whip Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) told a press conference yesterday.

“I’ve noticed since September that stories about the DPP have been decreasing [and some] don’t come out until late at night,” she added.

The DPP’s criticism came one day after CNA deputy editor-in-chief Chuang Feng-chia (莊豐嘉) said in an open letter that the agency’s reporters were often asked to withdraw reports critical of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and his administration by CNA chairman Chen Shen-ching (陳申青). Chuang added that Chen might have done so under pressure from the Government Information Office (GIO).

Scary stuff going on. I've run into CNA correspondents several times over the last few years and always told them how good their coverage was.... what a shame this recent turn of events is.

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