TAIPEI (The China Post) — Media Watch CEO His-Hua Teng (滕西華) said Tuesday that the consistency of COVID-19 news coverage from different news outlets was very high since the pandemic broke out, which must have had to do with the amendment of the Communicable Disease Control Act (CDCA, 傳染病防治法) in March.
Speaking at the second Taiwan International Journalism Conference (TIJC) organized by Reporters Without Borders, Teng gave a keynote speech on “Taiwanese journalism in the post-COVID era” at National Central Library (國家圖書館) in Taipei.
According to the amendment of the CDCA, the government, which established the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), has also sanctioned those who spread false COVID-19 information in response to the pandemic.
Against this backdrop, only the government can publish first-hand data of the pandemic and those who spread false information related to disease control measures during the existence of the CECC may face serious fines.
The anti-China sentiment, which has flared up in recent months, and the declining trust in Taiwanese media are also two important factors, Teng said.
As a result, if the media or experts question the government’s preventive measures, they may come under attack from online trolls.
Comparing this with the outbreak of SARS in 2003, Teng said that when the Internet wasn’t around, most reporters went to the scenes, such as hospitals, schools, or communities to dig out any information, instead of turning to the government authority.
Teng remarked that as the ruling party has full control nowadays, the media can only report the news released by the CECC.
This may hider the media from having different voices or experts’ opinions in their COVID-19 reports, which led to the high consistency of the news coverage.
“The government has not lied to some extent, but it is not known whether it has told the whole truth or not,” Teng added.
However, she believed that as the outbreak subsides, public fears of a pandemic would disappear and people’s doubts about the government will grow.