As a nation that values freedom of speech and a free press above all else, Americans everywhere should at least be aware of the disaster that’s about to happen to democratic Taiwan’s media market.
Taiwan’s most popular and independent media organization, Next Media, is about to be sold to China-based tycoon Tsai Eng-Meng, in a deal which would give him and his company (Want Want China Times Group) control of 50% of Taiwan’s entire print news industry. Considering the fact that Want Want already controls many cable and television systems on the island, Eng-Meng is buying his way to being the top-dog in Taiwan's media market.
The $600 million takeover is not so much a business deal as it is a proxy invasion of Taiwan’s independent press by the Chinese Communist Party. Eng-Meng, who is Taiwanese himself and holds large financial stakes in China, has been a vocal supporter of unification between communist China and democratic Taiwan. He is also an ally of Beijing’s communist government. These positions put Eng-Meng deeply at odds with the vast majority of the Taiwanese people.
Free media watchdogs everywhere have been crying foul over the deal. Objections go beyond the inherent hazards of one individual controlling the lion's share of a nation’s media market; they center on the fact that Eng-Meng already has a record of using his existing media empire to promote pro-Beijing bias and censorship in Taiwan. As the Committee to Protect Journalists recently declared, "A media buyout in Taiwan which would put independent news outlets critical of China into the hands of a pro-Beijing media tycoon is cause for concern for the island's press…letting it pass unchecked could mark the beginning of the end for Taiwan's freewheeling media culture."
The Taiwanese people are afraid of the deal and what it might mean for their free press, and have taken to the streets to protest. Last weekend, as many as ten thousand Taiwanese protested in the capital. Persuading regulators to stop the media deal from taking place was among their demands.
The people of Taiwan have long been allies of the United States, and share our belief in freedom of the press, democracy, and sovereign peoples' right to self-government. The free people of Taiwan may be about to lose control over their own press to the Chinese Communist Party, without a shot even being fired. The American people, our press and our government need to stand alongside those in Taiwan fighting for free speech, freedom of information, and free press, and prove that our belief in those freedoms does not stop at the water’s edge.