European Parliament Vice President Calls for Free Press in China

May 14, 2013 Updated: May 13, 2013

For the second time in two years, the British Vice President of the European Parliament, responsible for Democracy and Human Rights, has written to Taiwan’s president on the matter of press freedom.

Edward McMillan-Scott sent the letter to Ma Ying-jeou last week, asking the Taiwanese government to assist with the renewal of independent broadcaster New Tang Dynasty (NTD) Television’s satellite contract with Chunghwa Telecom (CHT), which is owned in part by Taiwan.

McMillan-Scott asked the president to “ensure that democracy, freedom of expression, and press freedom continue to thrive in Taiwan, which are linchpins of the relationship between Taiwan and the European Union.”

NTD transmits coverage of human rights issues into the mainland via the Chunghwa satellite, but its contract is up for renewal in August. Chunghwa has thus far remained silent on the matter in what appears to be a repeat performance of the 2011 controversy, when the provider had to be campaigned to extend the contract, after an alleged bandwidth problem.

“It is well-documented that Beijing maintains complete control over all media in China, and attempts to control media flow in and out of the country,” McMillan-Scott said. “However, it is still up to the free world how to react to such an attempt.”

Chungwha has been broadcasting NTD on its ST-2 satellite since the campaign over the last renewal.

“My colleagues in the European Parliament and I are eager for this matter to be resolved quickly and fairly, as we have unfortunately seen before that the Chinese regime has put pressure on broadcasting companies to end their coverage of NTD,” McMillan-Scott added, giving the example of French company Eutelsat yielding to the regime in 2008. Despite a Written Declaration being adopted in the European Parliament, and an ongoing legal inquiry into “any Chinese interference,” Eutelsat still has not reinstated coverage.

McMillan-Scott concluded that he has “faith in the democracy and freedom of press in Taiwan, which is viewed as a vibrant and free society,” and hopes for “a solution that allows NTD to continue its valuable broadcasting to the Asian region using CHT satellites.”