Fears for Media Diversity and Press Freedom Heightened in Taiwan

The International

Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate the Association of Taiwan

Journalists (ATJ) in expressing concern about the details of the sale of Next

Media’s Taiwan Holdings and the potential threat posed to media diversity and

press freedom in Taiwan.


It was first reported

in mid-October by local media that media mogul Jimmy Lai planned to sell his

Taiwan-based print and television assets to a consortium 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. 

Concerns over the impact on media diversity as a

result of the sale have heightened following confirmation of the dominance of Want Want China Times Group (WWCT)--  whose Chairman tycoon Tsai Eng-meng, is

largely seen as pro-Beijing--in the US$601.2 million deal has been confirmed.


The deal includes the

sale of Taiwan’s Chinese-language newspapers, Apple Daily, Sharp Daily, as well

as Next Magazine and Next TV.


Apple Daily is one of

the most widely circulated newspapers in Taiwan, with over two million readers,

and has been critical of the Communist Party regime of China (PRC) and has held an independent

editorial stance toward Taiwan`s Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang or KMT)



On November 19, the

ATJ, together with the associated Taiwan News Media Industrial Union, filed a

formal complaint to the Executive Yuan (Taiwan’s Cabinet), the Financial

Supervisory Commission (FSC), the Fair Trade Commission, the National

Communications Commission (NCC) and the Council for Labor Affairs that urging them

“not [to] passively wait until the transaction contract signing is completed

but take positive action to investigate and halt this illegal merger.”


The complaint

outlines concerns that the sale could potentially violate laws relating to the separation

of finance and industry as the acquisition of Next Media (Taiwan) by WWCT would

tip the Group’s control over the print news industry to nearly 50 percent.


The ATJ has warned that

such a degree of concentration would “violate the anti-monopoly and fair

competition stipulations of the Fair Trade Law and the three laws regulating

wireless television, cable and satellite and the broadcasting and radio



The ATJ and other

journalist organistations therefore urged the Commission to closely inspect the

deal in relation to the likely impact on press freedom, and also the potential

implications for media diversity. They also urged the Commission to investigate

the sacking by Next Media Taiwan of more than 10 percent of its workforce before

the deal was announced, which prompted several employees to complain to the

labour authorities and ask for negotiations to protect their rights and



Similar appeals were

issued on November 19 by the four new labour unions which represent the main

units of Next Media (Taiwan), namely Apple Daily, Sharp Daily, Next Weekly and

Next Television.


In a show of

solidarity, over 100 journalists from unions of Apple Daily in Taiwan and Hong

Kong’s Next Media Union voiced their concerns on November 20 outside the building of Apple Daily in Hong Kongwhen they met the Editor-in-Chief of Hong Kong Apple Daily, originally a

subsidiary of the Group.

Those in attendance wore black T-shirts and facemasks with signs calling for “Freedom”

and featuring the slogan “We Don’t Want Black Hands.”


“We again call on the

Government of Taiwan to ensure that editorial independence and workers’ rights

are protected under the new ownership” said the IFJ Asia Pacific.

“We join the ATJ in

calling on the relevant regulatory authorities to ensure that the sale of Next

Media does not harm press freedom in Taiwan. We also call on the Government to

guarantee that the new owners respect the union’s legal standing to represent

employees in collective bargaining processes.”





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