Taiwan’s press freedom falls from best in Asia, behind South Korea

Taipei, April 18 (CNA) – Taiwan’s global press freedom ranking remained the same at 42nd, falling from the best in Asia last year to second, behind South Korea, according to the 2019 World Press Freedom Index released Tuesday and updated Thursday by the Paris-based Reporters without Borders (RSF).

Among the 180 countries and territories evaluated by RSF, Taiwan’s ranking is better than that of Japan, which remained at 67th, Hong Kong, which fell three places to 73rd, and the Philippines, which fell one place to 134th.

South Korea jumped 20 places to 43rd in 2018 and went up two places further in 2019. RSF attributed the improvement to the election of the country’s President Moon Jae-in, who it said has brought “a breath of fresh air after a bad decade in which South Korea fell more than 30 places in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index.” The Moon administration ended a decade-old conflict at two public broadcasters – the Korean Broadcasting System and Munhwa Broadcasting Corp. – where “journalists objected to have bosses foisted on them by the government,” RSF said.

In contrast, even though Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has said she wants to continue developing press freedom in Taiwan, “few concrete measures have been taken to improve journalists’ editorial independence and encourage the media to raise the quality of public debate,” RSF said.

Whereas Taiwan’s journalism is categorized as in a satisfactory condition, similar to the situation in most developed countries, its journalists suffer from a “very polarized media environment dominated by sensationalism and the pursuit of profit,” making independent journalism “extremely difficult,” RSF said.

China, suspected of “orchestrating online disinformation campaigns” in Taiwan, is “exploiting this weakness by putting pressure on Taiwanese media owners, who often have business interests on the mainland,” RSF said.

In the 2019 rankings, Norway was ranked first for the third year running and Finland took second place, while an increase in cyber-harassment caused Sweden to drop one place to third.

The United States dropped three spots from a year earlier to 48th. The five countries at the bottom of the list are Vietnam, China, Eritrea, North Korea and Turkmenistan, in that order.

Published annually by RSF since 2002, the World Press Freedom Index assesses the level of pluralism, media independence, the environment for the media and self-censorship, the legal framework, transparency and quality of the infrastructure that supports the production of news and information. It does not evaluate government policy.

The index’s scores measure constraints and violations for each country, so the higher the score, the worse the situation.

By Chi Jo-yao