The International Federation of Journalists
(IFJ) shares the serious concerns of its affiliate, the Association of Taiwan
Journalists (ATJ), over threats to media diversity and basic working rights of media
personnel, after the sale was announced of several major newspapers, magazine
publications, and television stations in the country.
The ATJ has raised concerns about the impact that
the sale of Next Media Group’s assets could have for media diversity and the potential
negative impact on press freedom.
Taiwan’s media reported in mid-October that Hong Kong businessman and media
mogul Jimmy Lai planned to sell his Taiwan-based print and television assets to
a group of bidders including Jeffrey Koo, the chairman of Chinatrust Charity
Foundation, William Wong, chairman of the Formosa Plastics Group (FPG), and a
Singapore-based private equity fund.
This sale to the consortium of investors for approximately US$600 million was formally
revealed by all the parties concerned, on October 18.
The deal, which includes the sale of Taiwan’s Chinese-language newspapers,
Apple Daily, Sharp Daily, as well as Next Magazine and Next TV, will result in
the full withdrawal of the Next Media Group from the Taiwan market, after 13
Apple Daily is one of the most widely circulated newspapers in Taiwan, with
over two million readers. It has been critical of the Communist Party regime in
the Peoples’ Republic of China (PRC) and has held an independent editorial
stance toward Taiwan’s Chinese Nationalist Party government and all other
political forces in Taiwan.
Taiwan’s Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) and the National Communications
Commission (NCC) announced plans to investigate the intended purchase of Next
Media by Koo and other investors on October 19.
Both Chinatrust Financial Holding Company and FPG are reported to have major
business holdings in China.
Though PRC investment in Taiwan’s print, broadcast and television media is
banned, its influence in the Taiwan media has grown dramatically in recent
years, through investment by favourably disposed investors and the extensive
use of so-called ”embedded advertising” or ”paid news” purchases.
“We share the concerns of our affiliate that the sales of media outlets in
Taiwan have the potential to enormously affect its media landscape, and look forward
to an independent enquiry establishing the potential outcomes on concentration
of ownership in the country” said the IFJ Asia Pacific.
In the wake of the announcements, the ATJ, which has no organisational
affiliation with Apple Daily’s newly- formed union, has provided its support to
the union and its workers.
The ATJ affirmed the legal right of the union to engage in collective
bargaining with the new owners, to ensure working rights and editorial
autonomy, and has encouraged Apple Daily employees to unite to protect their
working rights and professional and editorial autonomy.
The Apple Daily union reportedly represents around 1,300 employees. Efforts are
also now reportedly underway among Next TV employees to form their own labour
“We join the ATJ in calling on the Taiwan government to guarantee that
the new owners respect the union’s legal standing to represent Apple Daily
employees in collective bargaining processes. We also call on the government of
Taiwan to ensure that editorial independence and workers’ rights are protected
under new ownership” said the IFJ Asia Pacific.
The IFJ also reported earlier in the year on its concerns for Taiwan’s press
freedom, as the decision of the country’s National Communications Commission
(NCC) to approve the expansion of the services of media giant Want Want China
Times Group, was announced.
The Next Media Group sales follow protests in Taiwan against media monopolisation
where approximately 10,000 people joined a September 1 demonstration organised
by the ATJ and other media reform organisations, in the wake of the NCC
The ATJ believes that the cases of the Want Want China Times Group and the Next
Group highlight the need for clearer legislation to restrict cross-sectoral
media monopolies, and calls for the
establishment of a regulatory framework for the purchase of news media by
conglomerates or financial holding companies that can ensure worker rights and
editorial autonomy, professionalism and social responsibility.
“Diversity of media ownership, plurality and editorial independence are
integral to democracy and Taiwan’s media must be supported by authorities to
fulfil its democratic role, regardless of ownership” said the IFJ Asia Pacific.
further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0918
The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131
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