TAIPEI (CNA) — Taiwan was ranked 43rd on the World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) for 2020, down one notch from the previous year.
Despite the regression, Taiwan is one of just four countries in the Asia-Pacific region that fall in the “good” and “fairly good” categories of the index, following New Zealand (ninth), Australia (26th) and South Korea (42nd), according to the 2020 index published Tuesday.
In its analysis on press freedom in Taiwan, the RSF said that political interference there “is rare and less tolerated, but Taiwan’s journalists are suffering from a very polarized media environment dominated by sensationalism and the pursuit of profit.”
“Although 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 journalistic editorial independence and encourage the media to raise the quality of public debate,” the France-based international organization said.
It warns that Beijing is exploiting this weakness by putting pressure on Taiwanese media owners, who often have business interests in China.
“Beijing is also suspected of orchestrating online disinformation campaigns — a threat that could lead to questionable retaliatory measures by Taiwan, such as refusing visas to Chinese journalists regarded as hostile,” the RSF said.
A total of 180 countries and regions were ranked according to the level of freedom available to journalists. Norway topped the list, followed by Finland, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands.
The top 10 also include Jamaica, Costa Rica, Switzerland, New Zealand and Portugal, in that order.
Asia is the world’s worst violator in terms of press freedom, with North Korea falling one place to the very bottom of the 2020 index, according to Cédric Alviani, director of the RSF’s East Asia Bureau.
China was ranked 177th, which Alviani said was because the nation “never stops enhancing its system of information hyper-control and persecution of dissident journalists and bloggers.”
“Further evidence of this was presented in February 2020, when China arrested two of its citizens for taking it upon themselves to blow the whistle on the coronavirus crisis,” he said.
Alviani described China as “the world’s biggest jailer of journalists,” as it is currently holding around 100, the vast majority of whom are members of that country’s Uyghur community.