The International Federation of Journalists has expressed concern about the Taiwan government's decision to order TV news channel ETTV-s and six other movie and variety channels to stop broadcasting.
In a snap decision, Taiwan's Government Information Office (GIO) refused to renew the broadcasting licence of ETTV-s, part of the ETTV group, and gave very limited time for public response to the decision. The GIO said the station had violated new broadcasting regulations and that the industry needed to be cleaned up.
The IFJ, the global organisation representing over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries, is concerned the decision to close the station represents a step backward for press freedom and was made without adequate consultation or discussion by an ad-hoc committee without official sanctions or guidelines.
The IFJ recently held a regional meeting in Taipei from July 7-10. At the meeting the president of Taiwan, Chen Shui-bian made commitments to enshrine press freedom in the constitution.
"This decision demonstrates the urgent need for a legitimate and independent media body to deal with licensing issues, particularly in light of President Chen's recent comments committing Taiwan to further strengthen freedom of the press," said IFJ President Christopher Warren.
"Cleaning up the industry and strengthening journalism values should be an open, joint process with the media and government working out issues together," said the IFJ President. "By not giving stations adequate time to respond to the decision, it has directly affected a number of media workers who have been left out of work without notice," said Warren.
According to IFJ sources, the GIO has also set up an 'independent consultation committee' without government approval to discuss the licence issue.
The IFJ urges the Taiwanese government to disband this ad-hoc committee and speed up its legislation currently before the Legislative Yuan to establish a truly independent National Communication Commission.
"Setting up an independent body to monitor and license stations in Taiwan would give the media confidence in licensing decisions," said IFJ President Christopher Warren. "Concerns about inappropriate content being broadcast by stations in Taiwan should be dealt with independently to ensure press freedom, and allow the media open accountability and responsibility in responding to content issues," said the IFJ President.
In making its decision, the GIO said the license suspension would help restore order to an industry that has been criticised for irresponsible journalism.
However, broadcasters claim the GIO has become increasingly heavy-handed in its managing of the media and that they are uncomfortable with the GIO's close ties with the ruling party.
ETTV-s says that the refusal to renew their licence is unlawful and it will be challenging decision.
For further information on the Taiwan regional meeting, including the full resolutions, program, participants' list and papers, visit http://www.ifj-asia.org/page/taiwan.html
For further information, please contact Christopher Warren on +61 411 757 668
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries