TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A newly released report by the U.S. State Department alleges that Beijing seeks to influence news reports about China by pressuring advertisers and the parent companies of Taiwanese media outlets.
On Tuesday (March 30), the U.S. State Department released its "2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices," including an 8,400-word section on Taiwan. The report covers human dignity, civil liberties, political participation, government corruption, investigations of human rights abuses, discrimination, and labor rights.
Under the category titled Respect for Civil Liberties, the report cited three examples in which Taiwanese courts ruled in favor of those asserting their actions were constitutionally protected freedom of speech, including against attempts by authorities to enforce the Law for Maintaining Social Order.
The report said there were no reports of the Taiwanese authorities imposing restrictions on media freedom. It pointed out that the Ministry of Health and Welfare had rescinded restrictions on the reporting of suicides.
However, under a subcategory titled Censorship or Content Restrictions, it stated that attempts to dictate the nature of content reported by Taiwanese news agencies are taking place externally from China. According to the report, Chinese officials are seeking to influence Taiwanese media by exerting pressure on companies commercially tied to their parent company in China.
It cited Taiwanese journalists as reporting that they have faced pressure not to publish content deemed to be critical of the Chinese government. These journalists allege that Chinese officials are calling on Taiwanese companies operating in China to refrain from advertising with Taiwanese media firms that publish content considered critical of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
In an attempt to "punish" Taiwanese journalists who work for media outlets perceived as publishing unflattering content about CCP policies or actions, they are subjected to increased scrutiny at Chinese ports of entry or are denied entry entirely. In addition, hackers believed to be based in China have reportedly launched cyberattacks on Taiwanese reporters' computers and smartphones.
The report then touched on Taiwan's Anti-Infiltration Act, which was passed in January 2020 to curb Chinese influence on Taiwan's political process, and pointed out that it imposes a prison sentence of up to five years and fines of up to NT$10 million on violators. It stated that Taiwan-based media group Master Chain, which has operations in China, chose to shutter its business in the island country after the act took effect.
Also covered in the report was the National Communications Commission's (NCC) decision to reject the license renewal application from pro-China Chung T'ien Television's (中天電視) news channel CTi News (中天新聞). The State Department noted that some opposition politicians and academics had alleged the decision was "politically motivated retaliation" for the news agency's criticism of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
However, it also observed that CTi News and other related news organizations owned by Want Want Group had taken "editorial direction from the PRC." In last year's human rights report on Taiwan, the State Department described the Want Want Group as having "substantial operations" in China and pointed out it had sued a Financial Times reporter "in apparent retaliation for a report she authored exposing coordination between Want Want media outlets in Taiwan and the PRC Taiwan Affairs Office regarding the content of Want Want publications."