Tsai Administration Should Not Insult Free Speech Martyr
United Daily News Editorial, October 15, 2020
The license renewal of Chung Tien Television (CtiTV) News has recently made a lot of hubbub. The National Communication Commission (NCC) has unprecedentedly held a hearing to discuss this case. CtiTV demanded that the two commissioners who hold specific political positions should recuse themselves from reviewing the case but was rejected. The National Policy Foundation, the think tank of the Kuomintang (KMT), pointed out that the CtiTV is “certain to be closed.” It is ironic that former President Chen Shui-bian posted a photo of him and democracy activist and free speech martyr Cheng Nan-jung saying that “Taiwan cannot have only one voice,” as a way to admonish the administration of President Tsai Ing-wen. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration’s attempt to suppress a TV station’s opinion and existence by closing it down is an act of stark anti-democracy and a betrayal of its founding principles of democracy and progressive values.
Some of CtiTV’s news programs and comments are debatable, if judged from a strict standard. The question is, who is qualified to decide that it should be shut down and no more comments are allowed? Who is qualified to decide that it should change its viewpoint and to say something in line with the ruling party? A few members of NCC? Premier Su Tseng-Chang or even President Tsai? If everyone’s memory is not lost, closing down newspapers or magazines happened during the precarious moments of the authoritarian era. But after decades of democratization in Taiwan, why does the current government want to impose ironclad control on the life and death of a news media?
If we look at this matter from another angle, CtiTV’s comments may be unpleasant to the ruling party or the pro-DPP camp, but it reflects the voice of a corner of Taiwan’s society. Such voices may only be a modicum, but does the DPP have insufficient space to accommodate such a minority opinion? Furthermore, in the current political ecology of television news networks, CtiTV’s China-friendly and pro-Blue viewpoint is what a self-proclaimed democracy and pluralistic country needs. If this noise is eliminated, the Tsai administration can only hear praises and flatteries every day. When it is indulged in complacency, will it still think of ways to improve its governance? The cabinet under Premier Su is abusing and hegemonic in using its power, while the NCC looks at its superiors and trims its sails, not straightening its back as an “independent agency” — not to speak of independent exercise of power.
The democracy of a country begins with the freedom of speech, which is also the main pursuit of the DPP in its formative years. Today, though only the second time in power, the Tsai administration has slipped its mind from the founding principles. The Tsai administration has forgotten its original intention, supposing it could close the media arbitrarily instead, and only those who praised the government and sang along could survive. This mentality is both contemptible and mournful. Because of this, former President Chen feels that he has the right to jump out and “correct” the Tsai administration. Isn’t it ironic in its extreme?
In 1989, Cheng Nan-jung set himself on fire for advocating “100 percent freedom of speech.” After being neglected by the DPP for many years, he was redeemed as a martyr because of the admiration of the younger generation. President Tsai designated Cheng’s self-immolation day as “Freedom of Speech Day,” saying that this is the legacy Cheng left behind to Taiwan with his life. And she declared that “a society with freedom of speech has the ability to be immunized to false information.” However, the Tsai administration’s doing is exactly undermining social immunity.
We also want to remind NCC commissioners: Your responsibility is to formulate good rules of the game and act as an objective and fair supervisor. Don’t take yourself as a propaganda mechanism for formulating the public opinion or a hangman of news media. Or else, if the broadsword goes down and chopped the bones of Cheng, the DPP’s myth of democracy will also be split into two.