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China’s creeping media influence

TAIPEI (SE) : China could influence Taiwan by getting its hands on media organisations, as it did in Hong Kong and Macau, journalists from Taiwan and China’s two special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau warned during a conference hosted by the Association of Taiwan Journalists in Taipei on August 31.

Loa Lok-sin reported in The Taipei Times on September 1 that while the Taiwanese are becoming more concerned about China’s influence over media outlets on the island, journalists from Hong Kong and Macau pointed out that it is a real possibility.

Loa said that big demonstrations were triggered in Taipei when the Want Want Group announced its plan to merge with the cable service provider China Network Systems and the Next Media, as the Want Want chairperson, Tsai Eng-meng, is known to have close ties with Chinese officials, as well as significant investments in China.

Journalists from Hong Kong and Macau warned at the conference that this is exactly what is happening in their home territories and the same fate could befall Taiwan, unless something is done to stop it now.

“While Beijing claims that it is implementing the one country, two systems policy, it has, in fact, been emphasising the one country part since the end of 2003 and is tightening its control over Hong Kong, including its media,” the chairperson of the Hong Kong Journalist Association, Sham Yee-lan, told the conference on media development.

“In fact, in the past two decades, Beijing has declared at least three times that it would retake media outlets in Hong Kong, making them speak for the Chinese government,” Sham said.

Citing results of a survey conducted by the journalists’ association in Hong Kong, Sham said that about 30 per cent of journalists in Hong Kong say that they impose self-censorship before filing news reports, 34 per cent said that they would think twice before filing reports that criticise the Hong Kong government and 50 per cent said that they would hesitate to criticise the Chinese government.

Sham quoted Reporters Without Borders as saying, “Freedom of the press in Hong Kong ranked 18th in the world in 2002, but dropped to 58th this year, falling far behind Taiwan at 47th.”

The Taipei Times reported the director of the Macau Journalist Association, Connie Pang, as saying that with a much smaller market than Hong Kong, the situation for journalists and editors in Macau is much worse than its neighbour.

She recalled that more than 1,000 people took to the streets on May 1 last year to protest against various policies of the Macau government, urge democratic reforms and protection of freedom of the press.

However, she lamented that many local media outlets chose not to report on the march or downplayed it as an insignificant event. In addition, she pointed out that a Hong Kong journalist was denied entry into Macau on the day of the protest.

“Most journalists have been reminded that while they may criticise Macau government officials, they should not criticise Macau’s chief executive, so that he can maintain a good image in the media,” Pang said.

Pang told the conference that on top of this, the Macau government is trying to amend the Press Law and the Audio-Visual Broadcasting Act to tighten government control over the media.

“Ironically, we sometimes have to learn about what’s going on in Macau through Hong Kong media,” she said.

The chairperson of the Association of Taiwan Journalists, Chen Hsiao-yi, said that the public and those working in the media must act to stop Taiwan turning into the next Hong Kong or Macau.


She said that journalists face a conundrum. “On the one hand, we are fighting against media monopoly, but on the other, we need the media for our campaign efforts,” she concluded.

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