Taiwan’s Next Media Sale Raises Freedom of Press Fears
Taiwan Central News Agency has reported that the sale of the Taiwan media outlets owned by Hong Kong-based Next Media was completed on Nov. 28 in Macao. The sale, which was expected, inspired immediate protests and fears that Taiwan is losing its freedom of the press to influence wielded by those with commercial interests in the Chinese regime.
Under the slogan “I’m a student, I’m anti-Want Want,” more than 100 members of the Anti-Media Monopoly Youth Federation came face to face with police as they protested in front of the Executive Yuan, the highest administrative organ in Taiwan. They requested that Premier Sean Chen come out to hear their demands.
Next Media’s sale has been a cause for alarm in particular because it has gained a reputation in Taiwan as offering independent coverage of Taiwan’s government and of the communist regime on the mainland.
“Want Want” is the name of one of the media companies involved in the purchase of Next Media. The chairman of the Want Want China Times Group, Tsai Eng-meng, has been cited by critics as the leading example of the encroachment by the Chinese Communist Party into Taiwan’s free media.
According to the deal agreed to in Macao, Tsai now owns 32 percent of the stock in Next’s print business and zero percent of its television station.
Tsai’s partners in the sale are also viewed with suspicion. Netizen “Jidong Weibo,” a librarian located in the United States noted that the four buyers are “wealthy and powerful people who just happen to have good relations with the Chinese Communist Party.”
Opponents of the sale are hoping that Taiwan’s Fair Trade Commission may block it for establishing a media monopoly. Want Want owns the Taiwan paper China Times and, with the purchase of Next Media, has acquired a large stake in Apple Daily.
The Anti-Media Monopoly Youth Federation commented on its Facebook page: “The Fair Trade Commission is now the only thing preventing Want Want CEO Tsai Eng-meng from purchasing Next Media’s print news business. If Want Want acquires Apple Daily, it will take 46 percent of the market!”
The Anti-Media Monopoly Youth Federation also requested that Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou strictly monitor the Next Media acquisition. The Next Media case has caused strong public distrust of Ma’s administration. According to recent opinion polls in Taiwan, over 70 percent are currently dissatisfied with Ma’s administration in general.
Apple Daily reported that the chairman of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, Su Tseng-chang, warned that the purchase of Next Media will have a major impact on the media environment in Taiwan, and therefore President Ma has an obligation to get involved.
On Nov. 26, the Apple Daily Employee Union started a protest, with dozens of employees staying overnight at the Taiwanese Apple Daily headquarters. The next day, all four major employee unions of Next Media—Apple Daily, Next TV, Next Magazine, and Sharp Daily–-issued public statements stressing that if the new Next Media investors try to censor negative news, or use the resultant power of the press as a bargaining chip in dealing with the CCP, “You are a disgrace to this society.”
The Next employees added that money may be able to buy the brand of Next Media, but it certainly “cannot buy our souls!”
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