Tuesday, November 16, 2010

One ‘friendly reminder’ too many

Signs are emerging that the Ma administration is taking a soft authoritarian approach to freedom of speech

Seemingly isolated incidents observed over a given period of time can, if they occur frequently enough, form a pattern. This is what appears to be emerging under President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration in terms of how it handles the right of ordinary people and the media to freely express their opinions.

Though the origins of this process can be traced back to the early days of the Ma administration, this month alone confronted us with a series of incidents involving government intrusion into the realm of freedom of expression.

First was a notice by the Ministry of Education to the Professional Technology Temple’s (PTT) Gossip Board, a popular online bulletin board hosted by National Taiwan University, calling on administrators to request that users tone down their political rhetoric to ensure a “cleaner” environment. Although Minister of Education Wu Ching-ji (吳清基) called the notice a “friendly reminder,” PTT users by the hundreds saw it differently, referring to it as the imposition of “martial law on the Internet.”

Then, less than a week later, came the outburst over comments by political commentator Cheng Hung-yi (鄭弘儀), who during a public event used “improper” language when referring to Ma and subsidies for Chinese students. What should have been a minor incident was instantly turned, both by the Ma administration and pan-blue media, into the public crucifixion of an individual who disagreed with the administration’s policies.

My unsigned editorial, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

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