As election campaign heats up, NGO coalition invites media to commit to journalism ethics 

As the Taiwanese election campaign heats up, an NGO coalition today launched the “Ethical Journalism Pledge for Taiwan Elections”, an initiative aimed at boosting public trust in the media. A press conference will be organised on 9 November 2023 to present the first wave of signatories to the pledge.

As the 2024 general election campaign heats up in Taiwan, the threat of potential disinformation attacks impacting the democratic process cannot be underestimated. In an ideal world, when confronted with suspected “fake news” online, the public should turn to reputable media outlets in order to double-check the information. But the Taiwanese media community itself is often criticised for breaching journalism ethics due to political polarisation, sensationalism, and conflicts of interest. Taiwan suffers from one of the lowest rates of public trust in the media among democracies: only 28% according to the Oxford Reuters Institute.

However, a growing number of Taiwanese media outlets are aware of the responsibility they bear, and willing to be accountable to the public. In order to showcase these best practices and encourage more positive steps towards ethical reporting, an NGO coalition composed of Citizen Campaign for Media Reform (CCMR)Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and Taiwan Media Watch Foundation (TMWF), and supported by the Association of Taiwan Journalists (ATJ) and Taiwan Media Workers Union (TMWU), have launched “The Ethical Journalism Pledge for Taiwan Elections” today.

A call to combat disinformation

Due to Taiwan’s peculiar geo-political circumstances, Taiwan is one of the most exposed countries to disinformation campaigns,” states Taiwan Media Watch Foundation. To combat disinformation, the role of the journalism community of Taiwan is front and centre. Taiwan’s fair election relies on the journalism community to disseminate accurate and newsworthy information to the public. Our NGO coalition is taking action to emphasise the importance of ethical journalism during the election season. We encourage media outlets to pledge their commitment to the five ethical journalism guidelines.

Ethical journalism is the only sustainable mechanism for a democracy to develop a natural immunity against disinformation,” says Cédric Alviani, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Asia-Pacific Bureau Director. “When the media community better filters manipulative content before it becomes viral, public trust in the media will naturally improve and ‘fake news’ will fall on deaf ears.

“Media outlets should pay due diligence in their fact checking, and be fair to all candidates, when reporting on the general election,” asserts Citizen Campaign for Media Reform (CCMR). “Reports should respect the five journalism ethical guidelines to present objective information to the public, and to promote the public interest. We are honoured to be invited to the initiative and form a coalition with Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and Taiwan Media Watch Foundation (TMWF). We invite media outlets to commit to the five ethical guidelines.”

Five ethical guidelines

The NGOs invites Taiwanese media outlets to publicly pledge respect for five basic ethical guidelines: fair coverage, accurate reporting, professional tone, respect for privacy, and transparency.

  • Fair coverage: The media outlets pledge to provide audiences with balanced news coverage on the election campaign and provide fair space for each party and candidate to present their programmes and express their views.
  • Accurate reporting: The media outlets pledge to ensure the veracity and precision of all information reported, systematically fact-check claims made by candidates and their supporters, and clearly separate facts from opinions. 
  • Professional tone: The media outlets pledge to avoid sensational and inflammatory language that may mislead audiences and exercise utmost caution when commenting on polls and electoral results. 
  • Respect for privacy: The media outlets pledge to respect the candidates’ and their families’ right to privacy and avoid unnecessarily infringing upon their personal space, except when the information is of essential interest to the public.
  • Transparency: The media outlets pledge to show utmost transparency regarding their investigation methods and disclose any possible conflicts of interest or predisposition that could influence reporting. 

All media outlets welcome

Every Taiwan-based media is welcome to join the initiative, providing they commit to take concrete measures to enforce better respect for journalism ethics within their editorial department. 

Media outlets that are part of the initiative will be allowed to refer themselves as a “Signatory of the Ethical Journalism Pledge for Taiwan Elections initiated by Citizen Campaign for Media Reform (CCMR), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and Taiwan Media Watch Foundation (TMWF) with the support of the Association of Taiwan Journalists (ATJ) and Taiwan Media Workers Union (TMWU).”

On the morning of 9 November 2023, the NGO coalition will organize a press conference in Taipei in order to present the first wave of signatories to the pledge.