|Protests on Ketagalan Blvd on Human Rights Day|
While everybody’s attention is focused on the emergence of a “media monster” and the threat to the nation’s democracy, other developments behind the scenes are raising equally troubling questions about the government’s commitment to freedom of information.
The dangers of media monopolization and undue influence by China in local media are well-known, and need not be repeated. Rather, the focus should also be on recent moves by the government and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) that reveal the role President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration sees itself playing is that of a regulator of information.
Free-market advocates can say what they want about the virtues of an unchecked economy, but history shows that information — its uses and accessibility — is not a normal commodity, and therefore deserves special protections that can only be ensured through government supervision. It goes without saying that governments will on occasion be tempted to abuse that prerogative by censoring information or erecting barriers to critical information. What is needed is a healthy equilibrium between government regulators, the courts and the media to ensure that information is accessible and used responsibly.
Based on recent moves, there is reason to believe that the government sees things differently.
My unsigned editorial, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.