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September 21, 2017

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The 'little, certain happiness' that erodes media integrity

A fairly young democracy with press freedom of roughly the same level of maturity, Taiwan has good reason to be proud of the separation of its three powers and its sharp-witted fourth estate, the media.

Ranked no. 47 in the World Press Freedom rankings in 2013, a two-place drop from 2012 was of no major worry as Taiwan's media continued to flaunt its freedom of speech that was gained through years of demonstrations and, after merely two decades, is now taken for granted.

Although we lead most Asia-Pacific countries in the press freedom rankings, many of Taiwan's media outlets are by no means relaying the whole and unadulterated truth of the island's happenings. Finally unbeholden to the government in the late 1980s, press freedom ripened rapidly and has now become a bloated, arrogant force boasting of a power capable of changing many minds — of voters, protesters and those who have not yet taken a side.

Whoever captures the power behind the rumors wins.

Sex sells. So do bloodcurdling murders and public brawls. Many mainstream media outlets have developed a habit of telling news stories in the exaggerated tones of tabloids, painting grotesque or twisted pictures that raise, some say, only three reactions: fear, disgust or an urge to laugh. Important news stories are often reported or edited according to the media's political leanings, while minor incidents, including a shameful report about some celebrity's daughter discovering NT$200 in her pocket, are blown up to fill the sighs of public disappointment. Reports are publicized if they make sense financially to the media owners.

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