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Taiwan's media freedom marred by pressure from advertisers and China: US State Department

The U.S. Department of State released the latest Human Rights Reports Saturday

Newspapers in Taiwan (Photo courtesy of Wikicommons)

Newspapers in Taiwan (Photo courtesy of Wikicommons)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The U.S. Department of State released the latest Human Rights Reports Saturday (Taipei Time), in which Taiwan is recognized as a democracy with adequate press and media freedom, even though journalists sometimes face pressure to produce paid or pro-China contents.

According to the news statement from the U.S. authorities, the 2017 “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices” document the status of human rights and worker rights in nearly 200 countries and territories.

In the report on Taiwan, particularly with regard to freedom of the press, it says “the independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views without restriction.”

However, the report also points out that the impacts of media ownership on Taiwan's press and media freedom, particularly among companies having close ties with Beijing or receiving investment from China, are a matter of concern.

Although journalists working in Taiwan enjoy a generally high level of autonomy, their freedom has partly been marred due to influences of Chinese companies or the censorship of the Chinese government, which, in the statement, is named as one of the country authorities that “violate the human rights of those within their borders on a daily basis and are forces of instability as a result.”

What’s more, some Taiwanese media outlets face “punishments” from Beijing because their reportage has been deemed inconsistent with the Chinese government's policies, according to the report about Taiwan.

The report mentions that in October 2016, Beijing’s “Taiwan Affairs Office barred Taiwan reporters from the Liberty Times, Up Media, and the Taiwan branch of the Mirror from covering China President Xi Jinping’s meeting with Kuomintang party Chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) in Beijing.”

Additionally, the report says journalists in Taiwan are sometimes forced to produce paid contents due to pressure from advertisers or their own companies.

“Journalists said they faced pressure from management to submit news stories to complement or support the content of paid advertisements. Critics said product placement under the guise of news reporting undercut objective journalism, restricted journalists’ freedom, and undermined public trust in the media,” says the report.