May 08, 2008

Taiwan: UN Discriminatory Violation of Press Freedom Denounced

Sample ImageA Brussels-based NGO sent an open letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to restore the rights of Taiwanese journalists banned from the UN since 2004.

Below is an article published by Human Rights Without Frontiers International:

“When for the first time I was denied a press pass to the World Health Assembly due to my Taiwanese nationality, I felt humiliated, angry and finally sad because of that discrimination perpetrated by the UN itself,” said Jeanette Chiang, Europe Bureau Chief of China Times, at a recent press conference in Brussels.

On 6 May, the Association of the European Journalists (AEJ) celebrated the World Press Freedom Day by organizing a press conference on the theme “The UN has to revoke its ban on Taiwanese journalists covering the World Health Assembly (Geneva)” at the bureau of the Representative of the European Commission in Brussels.

The guest-speaker and spokesperson of all the Taiwanese journalists barred by the UN was Jeanette Chiang, Europe Bureau Chief of China Times.

In the last four years, the United Nations (UN) has barred Taiwanese journalists and news media from covering the activities of UN-system organizations, including those of the World Health Organization (WHO). Therefore, they are therefore unable to conduct newsgathering activities at the World Health Assembly (WHA) which is held every year in May in Geneva.

Ms Chiang spoke on behalf of her colleagues and shared their experience with the audience.

According to Niel Lu, who formerly reported on the WHA for Taiwan’s Central News Agency (CAN), before 2004, when applications were submitted to the WHO, Taiwanese journalists had no trouble obtaining press passes to cover the WHA. Beginning in 2004, however, applications had to be sent to the UN headquarters, and since then, Taiwanese reporters have been unable to get accreditation to cover WHA proceedings.

P.C. Tang, CAN’s special correspondent to the European Union, said that the reason invoked by the UN to prevent Taiwanese journalists from covering the WHA is probably pressure from China.

TVBS reporter Frances Fan said that in the past she had been refused a press pass when applying to the UN on the grounds that she held a Taiwanese passport or that she worked for a Taiwanese media organization. She said that, more recently, UN officials have not even bothered to process her applications.

Jessica Kung, a reporter from China Television Company, said her organization once sent a special correspondent to Europe to cover the WHA, but the UN Media Accreditation & Liaison Unit (MALU) refused to issue a press pass. They gave as their reason the fact that the Taiwanese government had a stake in the company.

When Tiffany Wang, who works for the privately owned China Times applied to the UN for accreditation using her US passport, MALU personnel told her that they had no choice but to refuse her application.

Another journalist who had Taiwanese and US nationalities was also denied access to the WHA although she used her US passport. The only reason was that she was working for a Taiwanese media outlet.

Talking about her own case, Ms Chiang said that she also has a dual nationality - British and Taiwanese – but she wants to use her Taiwanese passport for her professional activities. Once she used her British passport but it was retained because she was born in Taipei…

On the World Press Freedom Day, Human Rights Without Frontiers Int’l (Brussels) sent an open letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in which it was said:

“China is persistently trying to extend its censorship beyond its territorial borders and to silence any voice abroad criticizing its human rights policy.

Despite the pressure of Beijing, courageous heads of states have invited, met and honored the Dalai Lama.

Despite the pressure of Beijing, members of the European Parliament have co-organized events with NGOs to denounce the poor human rights record of China.

Despite the pressure and intimidation of Beijing, courageous Chinese human rights activists put their freedom and life in danger to say NO TO CENSORSHIP.

Human Rights Without Frontiers Int’l urges you to have the same courage and to restore the accreditation of Taiwanese journalists.”