On November 19, 2020, the government of Taiwan and its institutional and media allies won one more battle against the proclaimed Chinese enemy. The National Communications Commission (NCC), a supposedly independent organization whose members must have no ideological affinity with the government, decided not to renew the broadcasting license of the pro-KMT (accused of being, therefore, pro-China) channel CTiTV. However, in an increasingly polarized society such as the Taiwanese, it is necessary to demonstrate neutrality with facts, statements are not enough. Following the NCC decision, both the regime’s media (including the openly pro-DPP and pro-US Taipei Times and Taiwan News) as well as members of the government and other institutions such as, surprisingly, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), all have come to defend the legitimacy of that decision and to deny that it affects press freedom at all.

With these types of measures, the DPP party continues the path taken by its president Tsai Ing-wen when she ran to congratulate Trump on his election: the rapprochement with the Trump administration, Trumpist policies, and even the majority support of DPP’s voters for Trump (the 80% of DPP voters supported Trump over Biden for the US election, compared to 19% support to Trump by KMT voters[1]). An editorial in the Taipei Times even criticized that “KMT is wrong to look for Biden”, demonstrating one more time the openly pro-Trump editorial line of the DPP-influenced media and the clear support of KMT for Biden. DPP and Trump, KMT and Biden. This is not just a coincidence; it demonstrates the recent tendencies of both parties regarding China: whereas the former articulated the racist anti-China discourses of the US president, the latter seconded Biden’s alternative of multilateralism, negotiations and opposition to China with a different tone, avoiding military aggression or unnecessary threats. Within that polarized reality, the regime of truth imposed in Taiwan equated dialogue with connivance with the always/forever selected enemy, transforming the KMT in the Schimittian internal enemy that has to be eliminated at all cost. Attacking media outlets that support that party is a first step in that Trumpian strategy and, in a similar way as it has happened in the US, with the excuse of the defence of liberal democracy, democracy is becoming illiberal in nature[2].

This discursive operation, Gramscian, a war of position linking political society and civil society, seeking for cultural hegemony to dominate the state, expressing a national-collective will united vis-à-vis the enemy, is, however, not based on class struggle but on national identities and elite interests. It is becoming so exclusionary and entangled with Sinophobia that it enters into the terrain of racism and totalitarianism. The antagonism to the opposition party and its related media and organisations as foreign agents of the evil Chinese enemy are the classic operation of despotic regimes, the undemocratic operation par excellence that leads Taiwanese society towards a civil war conjuncture where liberalism can be sacrificed in order to safeguard “democracy”[3]. Through this operations, the ruling elites “not only justifies and maintains its dominance, but manages to win the active consent of those over whom it rules”[4]. In that vein, the discourses constructed around CTiTV and the arguments offered to shut it down have to be studied bearing in mind that strategy in the background. Let’s see, then, what are the reasons offered to legitimize the closure of this media outlet.

Following a Taipei Times article, we find that NCC acted against CTiTV because “last year, the commission received 962 consumer complaints regarding the channel’s broadcasting content, which accounted for about 31 percent of all complaints received that year”. So, the alarm was first ringed by consumer’s complaints. What is the standard of that? Who are those consumers? People who do not like CTiTV but still were watching it and, surprisingly, were alarmed by the low quality of its news and then decided to file a complain? Or, perhaps, there was an organized operation for selected “consumers” to complain to the NCC as the opportunity aroused? Of course, I have no proof to claim that there was any partisan interest behind the number of complaints, but I can affirm that it could have happened and, hence, the number of complains is no reason whatsoever to justify closing this or that news channel. If so, we could perfectly organise an operation to rise complains about, for instance, Taipei Times and easily manipulate the statistics before next year’s media outlets shut downs. Up to which point the number of consumer complaints have any relevance to judge the performance of media outlets?

Regarding NCC and its alleged independence: its former chairwoman, Nicole Chan, step down in April 2019 after receiving pressure and criticism from the premier and DPP legislators over the role of the commission in curbing missinformation[5]. This should not be a surprise, since the NCC, created by the DPP in 2006, as demonstrated being a tool to specifically curb China’s influence on Taiwan (and not disinformation from elsewhere). By coincidence or not, one month after Wong Pu-tsung substituted her, CTiTV was sanctioned after an emotional farmer stated in a live broadcast interview that an amount of pomelos of 200萬噸 (200 million catties), a round number used as an expression to emphasize the large amount (according to a later declaration of the same farmer, who apologized to the country for the lack of accuracy on his statement while he was carried away by emotion[6]), had been thrown away by farmers because of low prices, when in fact an undetermined number of pomelos were thrown away the previous year, an information that CTiTV rectified in a later news[7]. Still, rectification did not work and the sanction became $1 million TWD (35,000 USD), because NCC “concluded that the TV news channel had violated the general principles for verification of information [and] harmed public interests”[8].

Before, in March 2019, CTiTV was fined for another two sanctions[9]. The first one ($600,000 TWD), for not reporting a correction made by the government Ministry of Foreign Affairs on a previous China Time news, which suggested that a representative of Taiwan in Singapore was monitoring KMT’s candidate Han Kuo-yu visit to the country and informing the DPP government on it. Most likely, it was just a baseless suspicion based on Taiwanese representatives following the activities of Han Kuo-yu; but even if it was true, it would not be a surprise that the Ministry would like to impose a correction on the media outlet. Then, we have to ask ourselves on the adequacy of an institutional organ to decide what is fake-news and what is not, when it can be easily pressured by the ruling government to sanction in cases when it is “your word against my word”. The other sanction, of $400,000 NTD ($14,000 USD) was for a report on “auspicious clouds”, allegedly with dragon shape, during a KMT pre-election campaign event. Although it sounds more as a matter of freedom of religion than of freedom of press, judge by yourselves on whether that (naïve, traditionalist, superstitious) report deserved such a hefty fine and be part of the arguments to reject the license renewal to this media. As Steven Butler, Asia program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said: “When the government is in a position to declare something ‘fake news,’ it just opens the door to abuse”[10].

The previously mentioned article in Taipei Times continued: “the fundamental problem was that the channel’s largest shareholder, Want Want CTiTV Media Group (旺旺中時集團) founder Tsai Eng-ming (蔡衍明), had directly and indirectly intervened in the news production process”.[11] Thus, there are suspicions (for instance, that his “special assistant” covered that role and, hence, she would be just a puppet of Tsai Eng-ming), although no proof, that the owner had intervened in the news production process. Even if true, that the owners of a media platform have a saying on the editorial line of the media they own is not the exception but the norm. We could observe the case of Taipei Times. Reading, for instance, the memoirs of Michel Cole, who worked there for more than seven years and acted as deputy news editor, quitting is position in 2013 because, as he wrote in his blog:

“In the past year or so, however, things got from bad to worse with the managers, as we clearly had major differences over what the newspaper should be and the direction it should take. Soon it became apparent that my views were simply not welcome and that what was expected of me as a deputy news editor differed markedly from my understanding of the responsibilities that came with the title (tellingly, whoever replaces me will now have the grand title of “news desk rewriter”)[12].

The pressure from the channel management was so intense that it made the news editor resign. Now, that is a real and public proof of intervention in the news production process, not just hearsay or suppositions. What is more, after Cole resigned, he was hired as chief editor (2014-2016) of Thinking Taiwan, a site sponsored by a foundation created by Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwanese president. This information is gladly shared, openly, in his bio at The Diplomat[13], so it did not require a deep undercover research on my side. Following NCC automatic assumptions, we should state that there are reasons to suspect the ideological bias and monogamy in the pro-DPP media Taipei Times, since he got a nice position sponsored by DPP money probably, we could again suppose, because is good job as a mercenary of the regime. So, since it is public knowledge and comes as no surprise that the owners of a media outlet have an influence in the ideological direction that their media follows, it seems just hypocritical to consider it a valid argument to close a news channel. If we came to agree it is valid, however, we should then judge all media by the same standards “regardless of their political orientation”, to be neutral and respect the basic requirements of liberal democracy, as Foxconn Technology Group founder defended[14]. What this double standard makes evident is the ruling government operation to apply strict norms only on those media outlets that are not on their side.

Let’s continue with other arguments among the “overwhelming body of evidence”, as mentioned by Taipei Times[15], to justify the shut down of this pro-KMT (i.e. pro-China) news channel. For instance, there are “deep-rooted problems with the quality and impartiality of CTi News”, they write, as if their own channel, as I have mentioned, was not notorious enough for its lack of partiality (and quality, as The Invisible Armada has shown before). Are news quality and impartiality a reason to close a news media? If the information offered through this medium is so regrettable, should not be the viewers who decide to watch any other channel within the multitude of options offered in Taiwan? If it comes to the point of measuring bad quality and impartiality, there would be plenty of reasons to shut down Taipei Times, but, of course, that is just my subjective opinion. And that is precisely the problem, that an analysis of the quality and impartiality of a news media will always be a matter of subjectivity and, therefore, leaves a window open for injustice and political manipulation. The status apparatus takes advantage of its position of dominance and abuses of power to impose sanctions only on one side of the ideological field. Disinformation, as we will se below, is not a monopoly of pro-China media. In that sense, we have to agree with the opinion expressed by the KMT, which stated that after this ruling there will be a “chilling effect” on other pro-KMT (of course, pro-China!) media outlets.

Once the arguments offered by the Taipei Times have been exhausted, let us now look at the reasons provided by the other prominent English-speaking Taiwanese media, Taiwan News. They remark the fact that Tsai Eng-men, owner of CTiTV, “attended [last year] the so-called 4th Cross-Straits Media Summit in Beijing”, where CCP officials “openly discussed how they could use their media outlets to promote unification with Taiwan [emphasis mine]”[16]. That statement is, as we will see, pure and simple disinformation. Firstly, as the source of this information on the Summit, Taipei Times links with an article from the Taiwan Sentinel blog[17] (oh, surprise, managed by Michael Cole himself, remember, the mercenary in the service of the DPP, a relationship which speaks volumes about the inbreeding between the pro-DPP and anti-China media), in which Cole himself resorts to CTiTV[18] as his source for the information about the Summit! So, in the end, Taiwan News has to resort to information offered by a blog that is, at the same time, resorting to a source that allegedly offers zero quality standards and is mere propaganda, CTiTV. Where does it put the standards of Taiwan News? Secondly, let’s focus on the manipulative aspects of that statement about the Summit. The facts we know through the information offered on Taiwan Sentinel (coming from CTiTV) about the Summit is limited to the statement provided by Wang Yang, member of the CCP, who emphasized that “Cross-Strait media, he added, should shoulder the social responsibility of safeguarding and promoting the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations”[19]. Hence, it is not Chinese media (“their media outlets”) but “Cross-Strait media”. And the goal was not “unification” but the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations. At all points, Wang Yang keeps talking about the relationship between two distinctive entities with their respective media, far from the statement provided by Taiwan News. Furthermore, unification is here employed as part of the argument to downgrade CTiTV’s owner and legitimize his inadequacy to own a media outlet in Taiwan. That idea departs from the anti-China narrative that places a defence of unification as a forbidden stance, instead of a valid political program for Taiwanese political parties and society to defend. The fact that there exists an open attempt to censor as traitors or foreigners those who promote closeness or unification with China is a clear symptom of the decadence of Taiwanese democracy and the demonisation of China, and anyone related to it, in the current hegemonic narrative.

For Taiwan News, CTiTV directly means “a threat to National Security”, since what the presence of the owner in the Summer “effectively implied is that the pro-CCP head of Want Want takes orders from Beijing and interferes with the output of CTi News to ensure that these orders are being followed”. Those are a lot of implications to be taken just by the participation in a Summit. The facts baking this statement are as inexistent as the ones CTiTV had to claim that the representative in Singapore was spying the KMT candidate: just suspicions based on prejudices, real or not. It remains a question if NCC also arrived to the same dubious conclusions to take its final decision to reject CTiTV’s licence. The true fact is that Want Want China Holdings have businesses both in China and Taiwan, and that it has received millions from China during the last decade or so, part of which could have (or could have not) gone to finance the operations of CTiTV. The mere “suspicion”—as Michael Cole involuntarily confesses—is, then, that the media group had to return the favour by promoting pro-China news as well as other activities, like being “heavily involved in the promotion of cross-Strait media and cultural exchanges”[20]. These things are—for pro-DPP, pro-US, pro-independence media—obviously negative, but as far as freedom of press and expression goes, to support exchanges with China and to have favourable views towards increasing relations with that country is just one more political option (that we might dislike) within the democratic freedoms offered in Taiwan.

The main problem seems to be, then, that this media outlet is openly pro-China, perhaps even funded by China, and that it somehow disqualifies the channel from participating in Taiwanese democracy. If you support ideas linked to an anti-democratic country like China, or you support unification with the “enemy”, you are not allowed to participate in our democracy, this logic goes. China becomes the unofficially declared, selected, enemy of all Taiwanese. Those who support the enemy are tainted as traitors, spies, fifth columnists, and an environment of ideological civil war is installed in the country. We should then reflect on whether the fact that a channel is partially or fully subsidized by a foreign country is a reason to deny its broadcasting right in Taiwan (not to talk about so-called think-tanks!). I have no information about what Taiwanese channels receive funding from, for example, the US government or organisations. Since the controversial Anti-infiltration law enacted by the DPP government only seems to act on Chinese infiltration but not on US infiltration, we might never get to know. However, from the television in my home in Taiwan I could watch not only this supposed pro-Chinese channel, CTiTV, but also CNN and CNBC (US), BBC (British), Al Jazeera (Qatari), NHK (Japanese), CNA (Singaporean), etc. Some of them belong to countries that are not democracies. In an ideal liberal democracy, it would not be the state institutions that choose the information from which countries is allowed and from which countries should be censored (for instance, in France, United Kingdom, or the US, people can watch Russia Today, the propaganda channel officially subsidized by the Russian government, in French or English, with a redaction operating in those countries; in other countries like Spain, Argentina or Mexico, the Spanish version of Russia Today is also on offer. All this despite having been declared by many countries as a propaganda tool of Russia, and even as a “foreign agent” by the US). This work belongs to the citizens, since a democratic society must be mature enough to identify what news are false or detrimental, denying them visibility by simple freedom of choice itself. Rather, the problem seems to be that the Taiwanese government does not trust its own citizens and is more scared of them than it is of China itself. Hence, “showing” them what is the right path, the only “truth”, is a duty so necessary that jeopardizing liberal democracy to, paradoxically, save liberal democracy, becomes a legitimate way ahead.

The problem is not only that there are channels from China that broadcast in Taiwan, the problem is that the DPP government does not like their contents since they jeopardize their permanence in power in following elections. More specifically, the party in power and just part of its followers do not like the channel, since, as Taipei Times informed, a 52,5% of the Taiwanese society did not want to see CTi News license revoked, against 32,5% who would be happy with it[21]. I agree, however, with the challenge for democratic life that is for citizens to choose to watch a channel that broadcasts news with a low level of journalism and clearly partisan lines. The same is true in the United States with Fox News, Breibart News and others, which exercise constant coverage and support for Donald Trump — including fake news regarding the recent election result, ranking at the top of anti-democratic interference. If that is not an act of propaganda, of open partisanship, which also poses a direct risk to democracy, then what is? But if the citizens of a country do not value democracy and are willing to watch those channels and vote for their promoted madman… there is not much that a democracy can do to prevent it: it has already lost the battle and censorship might help to keep the government in power, but not to recover liberal democracy. Because employing censorship to defend liberal democracy is precisely that, accepting that it has lost the battle. As the well-known sentence of Voltaire goes: I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. That is what liberal democracy, if wants to deserve that name, should aspire to.

Interestingly, for Taiwan News and Taipei Times, “the most infamous of these many violations was perhaps during the infamous Kaohsiung mayoral election of 2018, when an NCC survey found that CTi News had dedicated 70 percent of its coverage to promoting future recalled KMT mayor and failed Presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜)”[22], while only 9% to President Tsai Ing-wen[23]. Let’s analyse this “most infamous” among the 5 violations (another 16 are being appeal in court[24]) made by CTiTV that have been so far confirmed by the Taiwanese judiciary. Regardless whatever says the NCC legislation, the fact of giving 70% of the media coverage to a candidate can be disproportionate, even absurd, given the boredom that such repetition would suppose for any spectator, but under no circumstances does it imply an act against what is permitted by freedom of the press. A media outlet should be free to choose the type of news to cover. Ultimately, the lack of diversity and the obvious ideological bias are not reasons to reject a media license. Nicole Chan, former head of the NCC, “expressed concern over the NCC’s penalty of CtiTV for dedicating too much coverage to Han Kuo-yu, saying that under her watch, her commission had favored disclosing the results of broadcasting fairness studies but letting the audience decide from there. ‘I don’t think it is appropriate to draw a line and set up a certain percentage’ of coverage deemed as fair, she said”[25].

The use of language by fanatics, like Victor Kemplerer remarked, has to be resisted by those who see themselves engulfed in the middle. The hatred for the partisan line of the CTiTV goes so far that editorials in the Taipei Times and Taiwan News cannot help but highlight their own lack of objectivity and their well-known role as anti-KMT and anti-China propaganda platforms, constructing an alternative reality in which the people of Taiwan are united against the despicable enemy. “Its programs have been among the most partisan of anything you will see in Taiwan or anywhere else for that matter. At times, CTi News would have made even Xinhua or the People’s Daily blush!”[26], mentioned Taiwan News. “The termination of CTi News’ license is neither an issue of free speech, nor freedom of the press. Rather, it is about shutting down a media organization that has been assiduously pumping out propaganda on behalf of Beijing to sow disinformation and distort the political debate; few will mourn its demise [emphasis mine]”[27], shared Taipei Times. As a final threat, Taiwan News warned other pro-KMT and pro-China media that this could happen to them too: “There are a number of newspapers and TV networks that should now be giving themselves a long, hard look in light of this decision. And if they do, Taiwan’s media landscape will be in a far healthier state as a result”[28]. In short, these channels are pleased that a political option, that of rapprochement with China and support for the KMT, is tainted as propaganda and disinformation, as well as threatened with closure. In that way, Taiwan would become a better country, a “healthier state”, one with national unity, a pure anti-communist fortress. They congratulate themselves comforted by the fact that being pro-DPP and anti-China media they have nothing to fear.

This scenario will surely come as no surprise to those who have investigated in depth the issue of misinformation and Chinese influence in Taiwan. Since the DPP government itself is a source of rumours and misinformation, no one should be surprised that its like-minded media, loyal subjects, view with optimism the existence of an ideological apparatus for media censorship. Let’s see a couple of examples of what I am suggesting. The first one is quite recent, 17 November 2020, a F-16 fighter jet is lost, and some people leave comments on Twitter saying that it defected to China. Until here, it should be no surprise, since Internet is full of idiots happy to say whatever to get attention. November 20th, Taiwan President offers a press conference and condemns Chinese malicious fake news about the missing F-16, while those tweets are called “reports”[29]. November 21st, the Taiwanese Minister of National Security speaks to reporters to condemn the rumours, already quite famous after all the propaganda given to mere tweets by the Taiwanese government and media. “The ministry said that there was no such evidence to support the claims, attributing them to Internet sources backed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)”, mentioned Taipei Times[30].

It is as much misinformation to state that the F-16 has landed in Xiamen as it is to get the Minister of National Defense to claim that these rumours have been spread by “Internet sources backed by the CCP”. The journalistic information mentions that “Chinese netizens claimed missing pilot landed his plane in Xiamen”, but the government authorities spoke of “rumors spread by the CCP’s Internet army”. In fact, there is no evidence to support neither of those claims, particularly the second. However, the Taiwanese government continues to accuse the CCP (and China Times group, owner of CTiTV), often without evidence, of being a source of disinformation every time a rumour circulates on the Internet, creating a trap in which those accusing others of “fake-news” become equally accused of spreading fake-news themselves. In this case, it was doubly ridiculous, because this sort of stupid tweets would be largely ignored by the general public had not they publicized these in the media. The DPP government takes as disinformation the messages of unknown and irrelevant individuals that are merely trying to mock and provoke Taiwan in its militaristic battle against China. No one with a minimum of intellectual level would give seriousness to the online comments of people who do not have any kind of authority, but once the government takes the stage to make those tweets official, the disinformation acquires a certain imprint of relevance. What explains this is the operation of discursive construction of the enemy, the constant presence in the media condemning the dangers that China suppose, as well as the evil strategies employed by its internal allies in the country. And the consequences of this operation are the conundrum of disinformation on disinformation. In this sense, the perhaps most prominent case of two-ways disinformation that Taiwan has suffered recently is worth discussing.

The Strait Times, in an article titled “Taiwan braces for pro-China fake news deluge as presidential elections loom”[31], analysed the risk of made-in-China disinformation. As the first example to justify this accusation, they mention that “one particularly egregious example that sparked criticism of the government was a widely shared, but patently false, report that China rescued Taiwanese tourists stranded in a Japanese airport during a typhoon” (also a large report of RSF on Chinese “disinformation and harassment” established this event as the main example[32]). In September 2018, Taiwanese passengers at Kansai International Airport were stranded because of a typhoon, and rumours circulated that the Chinese embassy had evacuated Chinese and Taiwanese citizens from the airport by buses, while the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Osaka did nothing to help. To add shame to the fact that China allegedly worried more about Taiwanese than Taiwan’s representatives in Japan, rumours also mentioned that some Taiwanese were forced to admit they were Chinese if they wanted to take the salvation ride. What made this event more dramatic was that, in an apparent response to the scathing criticism, Su Chii-cherng (蘇啓誠), the director-general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Osaka, committed suicide some days later. Eventually, it was known that it was the airport who organised the buses to the closest town, and from there the buses provided by the Chinese embassy took on to Osaka, with allegedly 32 Taiwanese on board[33] (in that sense, the news were partially a hoax but not completely).

On that same article of Strait Times, it was mentioned Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) statement that “the false typhoon evacuation story originated on the Chinese mainland and was picked up by Taiwan’s social and traditional media, in a ‘carefully coordinated and extremely effective disinformation campaign’ [emphasis mine]”. Next, the article cites a journalism professor at National Taiwan University, Wang Tai-li, who also studied this specific case of fake-news and based on it stated that “disinformation campaigns were proven effective last year and they will be replicated in larger scale during the upcoming presidential election”. Again, the China internet army and the CCP as a danger for Taiwanese democracy were blamed, in this case, by an organisation from which we should hold no doubt and by an academic researcher that should know his facts. Why to doubt it?

Once the truth of this fake-news came to light, and after the drama of the suicide occurred, NCC received petitions to research what had happened and started an investigation of TV news stations’ coverage of such incident. Taiwan News was one of those media outlets that spread disinformation, informing that “Witnesses are refuting reports by Chinese state-run media outlets which had claimed yesterday that Taiwanese tourists stranded at Japan’s Kansai International Airport due to Typhoon Jebi were forced to declare themselves as Chinese, before they could board evacuation buses dispatched by the Chinese embassy [emphasis mine]”[34]. Hence, this article contributed to the disinformation that the buses were actually dispatched by the Chinese embassy, supporting the fake-news on the ineptitude of the Taiwan representative office in Japan that eventually encouraged the suicide of the representative. At least, the witness accounts offered here by Taiwan News showed that the Chinese were not as bad as the initial fake-news pretended: they did gladly invite Taiwanese into the buses to Osaka, without shameful nationalistic episodes. However, Taiwan News, as a part of the government apparatus, was not the object of the NCC investigations, whereas CTiTV was included among them[35].

The investigation also involved the judiciary, and on December 2019, a Taiwanese court ruled out that it had identified who initiated the rumour about the incident at Japan’s airport. As it came out, the initial disinformation was not promoted by China and its internet army but by a Taiwanese. Moreover, the person in question was Slow Yang, a DPP influencer, the leader of the pro-DPP “Green Camp Internet Army”, who “was charged with spreading fake news, causing death of Taiwanese diplomat in Japan” [36], and “with hiring internet trolls to criticize Su’s office”[37]. The original post was shared on a Taiwanese forum called PTT, and from there it was shared by both Chinese and Taiwanese media.

Foreign Policy political magazine performed a deep analysis[38] of the problematic of fake news in Taiwan, also taking on this important case of “fake-news on fake-news”, and coming to interesting conclusions. The description is so sharp that it deserves to be shared in whole:

Questions also arose as to the source of the original PTT post. Shortly after the incident, the post was allegedly traced by internet users to an IP address in China. Incensed government officials spoke of the post as a malicious Chinese plant. In October, weeks before Taiwan’s regional elections, Mainland Affairs Council Deputy Minister Chen Ming-chi said the post “originated from a content farm in Shanghai.”

The incident was thus held up as symbolic of the threat posed to Taiwan by Chinese influence operations. It was widely cited by international media, by a Reporters Without Borders report, and by Tsai herself in a March 2019 interview as an example of “fake news” originating in China with malicious intent to target Taiwan.

At last, the article alerts:

Government officials who had pinpointed the incident as an example of Chinese meddling during election season never provided evidence of their claims, nor have they since issued corrective statements. Instead, Taiwan launched into a drive to combat Chinese-influenced news, often referred to as “red media”, that has gained support from the DPP.

Was the media that reported that the fake-news was originated in China or shared the disinformation expressed by DPP officials blaming China without double-checking the facts investigated or sanctioned by NCC? Of course not. As well, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) never corrected their unfair accusations.

Not a long time ago RSF alerted that putting “all the blame on Chinese propaganda was a mistake”[40] and also feared that Taiwan could react to this threat by “questionable retaliatory measures […] such as refusing visas to Chinese journalists regarded as hostile”[41] (something that had already happened). Now, after the rejection of CTiTV license, RSF considered NCC’s decision as regrettable, “an extreme measure”, and asked NCC “to provide the public with complete access to all evidence showing unequivocally that the renewal of CTi News’ license would have endangered the public interest”[42]. Despite not having those evidences yet, and regardless of the reasons to doubt NCC’s neutrality and all the previous mistakes and false accusations exposed here, RSF concluded that “it was a regular procedure by an independent regulator” and “NCC’s decision to review the channel’s license was ‘legitimate’, while the rejection ‘does not go against press freedom’” [43]. That gives a thing to think about, or two, about how the hegemonic narrative has changed the playing field since the beginning of the pandemic of the “Chinese virus”. As such, to understand the efforts to blame China, and China only, as the source of media manipulation in Taiwan, these have to be framed within the larger context of hegemonic struggle between China and the US, country that tirelessly contributes to aim at that country as the enemy of freedom, despite the fact that the US has probably been the country that more damage is currently doing to liberal-democratic freedoms in recent years.

 

 

[1] https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/feat/archives/2020/10/29/2003745962

[2] See Werner, J. (2020). Unmasking hidden enemies US China relations and the global illiberal turn. Webinar hosted by the University of Sidney. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FiYDjpEeRPA&t=2s

[3] Brossat, A. (2020). Personal communication.

[4] Gramsci, A. (1971). In Q. Hoare and G. Nowell-Smith. Selections from the prison notebooks of Antonio Gramsci. New York: International Publishers, p. 244.

[5] http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2019/04/03/2003712700

[6] https://news.ltn.com.tw/news/politics/breakingnews/2728440

[7] https://gotv.ctitv.com.tw/2019/03/1038705.htm

[8] https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/3677324

[9] http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2019/03/28/2003712314

[10] https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/01/10/taiwan-election-tsai-disinformation-china-war-fake-news-hitting-wrong-targets/

[11] https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2020/11/19/2003747178

[12] http://fareasternpotato.blogspot.com/2013/11/

[13] https://thediplomat.com/authors/j-michael-cole/

[14] https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/4058177

[15] https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/editorials/archives/2020/11/20/2003747233

[16] https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/4057059

[17] https://sentinel.tw/more-than-70-participants-from-taiwanese-media-industry-attend-4th-cross-strait-media-summit-in-beijing/

[18] https://www.chinatimes.com/newspapes/20190511000111-260309?chdtv

[19] https://sentinel.tw/more-than-70-participants-from-taiwanese-media-industry-attend-4th-cross-strait-media-summit-in-beijing/

[20] https://sentinel.tw/more-than-70-participants-from-taiwanese-media-industry-attend-4th-cross-strait-media-summit-in-beijing/

[21] https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2020/10/28/2003745915

[22] https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/4057059

[23] https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2019/07/18/2003718874

[24] https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202010260009

[25] https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/01/10/taiwan-election-tsai-disinformation-china-war-fake-news-hitting-wrong-targets/

[26] https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/4057059

[27] https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/editorials/archives/2020/11/20/2003747233

[28] https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/4057059

[29] https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/4058444

[30] https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2020/11/21/2003747304

[31] https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/taiwan-braces-for-pro-china-fake-news-deluge-as-presidential-elections-loom

[32] https://rsf.org/sites/default/files/en_rapport_chine_web_final.pdf

[33] https://international.thenewslens.com/article/105060

[34] https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/3524492

[35] https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2019/04/04/2003712786

[36] https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/3828724

[37] https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/01/10/taiwan-election-tsai-disinformation-china-war-fake-news-hitting-wrong-targets/

[38] https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/01/10/taiwan-election-tsai-disinformation-china-war-fake-news-hitting-wrong-targets/

[39] https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/3666237

[40] https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/01/10/taiwan-election-tsai-disinformation-china-war-fake-news-hitting-wrong-targets/

[41] https://rsf.org/en/taiwan

[42] https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202011180020

[43] https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202011180020

 

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