China Times Group Takeover Raises Press Freedom Concerns


The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) stands in solidarity

with its affiliate, the Association of Taiwan

Journalists (ATJ), and members of Taiwan’s

independent media in demanding that the new owners of Taiwan’s

largest media syndicate, China Times Group, make a public commitment to press

freedom and media independence.


Taiwan’s media regulatory body, the National

Communications Council (NCC), announced a conditional approval on May 27 of the

takeover of the China Times Group by the Want Want Group, after a series of

public hearings. Want Want Group is chaired by Taiwan

businessman Tsai-Eng-ming, who owns a food products conglomerate largely based

in China.


On June 12, the owners of the Want Want China Times Group sent legal

notifications to several journalists and office-holders in media rights

organisations threatening to sue them for any critical reporting of the takeover.

Recipients included Media Watch chairman Kuan Chung-Hsiang, ATJ President

Chuang Feng-Chia and Wealth magazine

editor Tien Hsi-Ju.


More than 30 media reform and human rights organisations and more than

400 news media workers in Taiwan have signed a petition, “News media is not the

tool of bosses”, condemning the takeover. The petition also condemns advertisements

published in the group’s flagship newspaper, China Times, accusing the NCC of abuse of power. The advertisements

reportedly included photos of three NCC members in a “most wanted” format.


The NCC’s decision imposed five rulings for conditions of operation of

the Want Want China Times Group. These include reappointing board members of two

major television stations owned by Want Want China Times Group, China

Television Co (CTV) and the Chinese Nationalist Party-operated CTI; assurance

of independence for the board of directors of both TV stations; separate

advertising, sales and programming departments; and the establishment of an

“ethics commission” and regularly published “self-discipline” reports on their

respective websites.


Signatories to the ATJ-led petition voiced concern that the group’s response

to critical commentary and NCC regulation indicated a lack of commitment to

news media professionalism and independence. “The dignity and professional

autonomy of news media employees cannot be sacrificed and news workers cannot

be treated as sales personnel or given orders on what news to report or what to

write,” the petition said.


“The Want Want China Times Group’s attempts to intimidate journalists,

public commentators and NCC personnel call into question its attitude and commitment

to freedom of expression and the value of independent voices in Taiwan,”

IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline

Park said. “The group needs to recognise that the role of an independent media

in a democracy is to provide a diversity of information, news and analysis, and

that media business employees must be able to provide this public good without

fear of intimidation and legal action.”


The IFJ joins the ATJ and petition signatories in calling on the owners

of the Want Want China Times Group not to override the press freedom standards

set by both the NCC and the independent reporting community in Taiwan.


For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919



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