Taiwan, the Ma Government Wants the Media to Serve it

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Tuesday May 03, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

Taiwan has recently been facing media problems where the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) is using its pan-blue media to run pro-KMT ad-verts as actual news stories. Other pan-blue media are publishing items straight from Xinhua News, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) news organ as if they are regular news. As Freedom House has noted, the press freedom in Taiwan has continued to drop since Ma Ying-jeou became president. Yet, once again, Taiwan faces another situation where it appears that not only does the horse not know how long his face is, but those who serve the horse do not either. In fact they seem to be trying to force the public to accept the fact that the horse really has a short face. What are we talking about? The case involves how a reporter for SET-TV exposed a fake pro-Ma PR scheme. Instead of being praised for good journalism, the reporter and his TV station are being criticized for exposing the truth.

Here is what happened. At a recent job fair hosted by the Council of Labor Affairs on Sunday May 1 in New Taipei City, President Ma Ying-jeou attended to show that he supports finding jobs for Taiwan citizens; all well and good. As Ma toured the fair, he stopped by a booth for the restaurant Din Tai Fung and made a case to the restaurant that they should help a certain job applicant; the restaurant obliged and the cameras clicked away. All well and good again, here was good PR. The president helps those in need, but wait, the job applicant was a "fake" applicant. She really was not looking for a job; she was a plant and just there to make a public relations (PR) scene for Ma. Here is where the case gets murky.

It was a fake, a sham, a set-up, that part is clear but who set it up? Was it a simple fake PR scene? Was it a pan-blue TV station wanting to make a good show for President Ma? Was there collusion between Council of Labor Affairs Minister Jennifer Wang and the TV stations so that Wang could score points with her boss and call a little extra attention to her job fair? Was the President's chief PR person King Pu-tsung involved wishing to jump start Ma's run for re-election and show that he is a man of the people? Was Ma himself involved?

Regardless of who set it up, the following reactions are where the freedom of the press is once again abused. A reporter for SET-TV later noticed that the "fake" job applicant was wearing a uniform of Din Tai Fung and questioned this anomaly. The truth came out; it was a set-up. But then who got in trouble? Not the people doing the fake set-up, but the one who pointed out how long the horse's face was.

The National Communications Commission (NCC) which should be an impartial commission but appears to be using its authority to browbeat press if they dont publish reports that support the Ma administration immediately called upon SET-TV to explain its actions. It also accused SET-TV of violating "journalistic ethics." Say what? The ones who expose the fraud and deception are accused of violating ethics and the ones who created the fraud and deception are not? What standards do they use?

Minister Wang in the meantime has been singing the blues about how hard she works, when she should really be explaining how deeply she was involved in the fake set-up and deception. That ministers seek to curry favor with their boss, be he the president, is political ambition and can be acknowledged and excused to some degree, but for a minister to react to her exposed deception in such a way that she attacks those who expose that deception is another. Minister Wang is not the only one that should be called on the carpet. Why isn't the NCC trying to find out who really set up this fake PR stunt? Why isn't the NCC investigating all the pro-KMT adverts in the media? Why isn't the NCC investigating how Taiwan's pan-blue media is being used as a pro-CCP shill? The horse may not know how long his face is and his government agents may try to hide it, but it is time that Taiwanese face the reality they live in.