IPI calls for greater press freedom in China
By Alan Fong
September 28, 2011, 11:58 pm TWN
The China Post --The International Press Institute ended its Annual World Congress and 61st General Assembly in Taipei yesterday with a call for press freedom in mainland China.
Remarking on the absence of members of the press from mainland China who are either forbidden to come or are concerned of consequences of participating the congress, IPI Chairman Carl-Eugen Eberle said in his closing address that he hoped to “melt down the ice in which Chinese journalism seem to be frozen.” He also thanked the Taiwan government, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin and the United Daily News, which organized the congress, in his remarks.
The theme of freedom of the press was again highlighted as 18 IPI representatives met President Ma Ying-jeou later at the Presidential Office. Ma pointed out in his remarks that Taiwan is a fully democratic country in which “Taiwanese democracy has become part of daily life and is recognized by the whole world.” The U.S. organization FreedomHouse Inc. has long regarded Taiwan as fully free, compared to partially free during the martial law era.
The nation had eased restrictions on press freedom soon after it lifted martial law in 1987, resulting in a bustling media scene unprecedented in Taiwan.
The last time when Taipei held the IPI Congress in 1999, the country had already held its first direct presidential election and was to witness its first peaceful regime change in the next year. By the time the congress convened again in Taipei 12 years later, Taiwan had experienced its second regime change, Ma pointed out.
However, Ma admitted that Taiwan is still a young democracy and there is room for improvement in terms of democratic system, freedom of the press and other elements in a free society.
In his closing address at the IPI congress, Premier Wu Den-yih praised the IPI for its contributions in global human rights protection, protection of freedom and support of democracy. He said that the Republic of China is a democratic country that defends the law, human rights and freedom and has been improving in its protection of press freedom.
Earlier in the IPI congress, a panel session highlighted the emergence of citizen journalism in world. Panelist Solana Larsen, managing editor of news website Global Voices, pointed out that citizen journalists should learn to cooperate with mainstream media while the major news outlets should also not view citizen journalists as competition. She pointed out that such cooperation can give voices to people in locations that are less focused on by the public, such as Madagascar and Fiji.
Professor Hung Chen-ling of the National Taiwan University also advocated for cooperation between the two models of journalism. Citizen journalists often beat mainstream media in breaking news involving natural disasters, she pointed out. The cooperation of professional and amateur journalism is a new possibility. She highlighted that the most important principle in citizen journalism is that “the information must be real and should not be created out of nothing.”
Lin Leh-chyun, director of the International Department of Taiwan's Public Television Service, pointed out that citizen journalists have proved to be important in the coverage of local news such as the Aug. 8 flood in 2008, and the Dapu farmland seizure incident in 2010.
PeoPo Project, an online citizen journalism platform in Taiwan, has over 5,000 registered citizen journalists and over 60,000 entries of video reports, Lin pointed out. Such platforms are gradually changing the media landscape in Taiwan, Lin said.