Taiwan: following RSF’s call, six major media outlets commit to ethical coverage of the presidential campaign

Following a call by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and a coalition of NGOs, six major Taiwanese media outlets today have publicly pledged to better take in consideration journalism ethics in their coverage of the January 2024 general election.

As the January 2024 general election campaign heats up in Taiwan, six major Taiwanese media outlets have publicly pledged today to cover it with the highest consideration for principles of fair coverage, accurate reporting, professional tone, respect for privacy, and transparency. They answered to the call made last month by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in partnership with Citizen Campaign for Media Reform (CCMR) and Taiwan Media Watch Foundation (TMWF), and with the support of the Association of Taiwan Journalists (ATJ) and Taiwan Media Workers Union (TMWU). 

This appeal aims at restoring ties between the public and journalists, in a  country which suffers from one of the lowest trust rates in the media among democracies (28%) and where the media community is often criticised for disregarding journalism ethics. What is more, the country is regularly the target of disinformation attacks, emanating primarily from China. 

To address such issues of citizens’ right to trustworthy information, six media outlets have pledged their full attention to ethical coverage of the upcoming elections: national news agency Central News Agency (CNA), public broadcasters Chinese Television System (CTS), Public Television Service (PTS) and Radio Taiwan International (RTI), as well as private news outlets Watchout and New Bloom.

“This pledge can be a starting point for important conversations about journalism ethics across Taiwanese media”, New Bloom’s chief editor Brian Hioe stressed. “Media outlets should pay due diligence in their fact checking, and be fair to all candidates, when reporting on the general election,” asserts a representative of Citizen Campaign for Media Reform (CCMR).

A shield against disinformation

Ethical journalism is the only sustainable mechanism for a democracy to develop a natural immunity against disinformation. Enabling the journalism community to better identify fallacious content before it goes viral is essential to restoring public trust in the media.

Cédric Alviani

RSF Asia-Pacific Bureau Director

​​Taiwan, a liberal democracy, is the victim of growing media interference from the People’s Republic of China, who aggressively claims its sovereignty on the island. Taiwan’s journalists are also suffering from a very politically polarised media environment dominated by sensationalism and the pursuit of profit. 

Due to its peculiar geo-political circumstances, Taiwan is one of the most exposed countries to disinformation campaigns,” states a representative of Taiwan Media Watch Foundation. “Taiwan’s media environment is increasingly challenging due to the rise of AI-generated content”, said CNA’s chief editor Chris Wang. 

In order to globally address the growing presence of false and manipulated information online, RSF together with several other civil society organisations initiated the Forum on Information and Democracy, which published in 2020 a set of 250 recommendations. RSF also launched the Journalism Trust Initiative (JTI) a mechanism to promote trustworthiness of news and information, which, to date, is used by more than 800 newsrooms worldwide to self-assess. In response to the rapid deployment of artificial intelligence (AI) in the media industry, RSF and its partners also launched an international committee to develop a charter aimed at regulating the use of AI in media.

Taiwan ranks 35th out of 180 in the 2023 RSF World Press Freedom Index. China, the world’s largest captor of journalists and press freedom defenders with at least 123 detained, ranks 179th.