Taiwan ranked 38th in RSF World Press Freedom Index
By ECCT staff writers, RSF
Taiwan moved up five places to No. 38th in the 2022 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) today. Taiwan's ranking placed it fourth in the Asia-Pacific region, behind New Zealand (11th), East Timor (17th), and Bhutan (33th), but ahead of Australia (39th) and South Korea (43th). The index's top three spots went to Norway, Denmark, and Sweden, which are considered to have a "good" media environment. Taiwan, however, was among the 40 countries listed in the index as having a "satisfactory" media environment.
RSF noted that Taiwan’s rise in rankings was not due to any improvements in the media environment but rather due to a new methodology of compiling the rankings. RSF reiterated previous statements regarding Taiwan’s ranking, saying that more needed to be done to address the "toxic" working environment for journalists in the country. In particular, political polarization of the media in Taiwan and the sensational approach that Taiwanese media takes to report certain news has posed an "obstacle" to the public getting factual and objective information.
According to an introduction to the latest report on its website, the 20th World Press Freedom Index published by RSF, reveals a "two-fold increase in polarisation amplified by information chaos – that is, media polarisation fuelling divisions within countries, as well as polarisation between countries at the international level". The report highlights "the disastrous effects of news and information chaos – the effects of a globalised and unregulated online information space that encourages fake news and propaganda. Within democratic societies, divisions are growing as a result of the spread of opinion media following the "Fox News model" and the spread of disinformation circuits that are amplified by the way social media functions. At the international level, democracies are being weakened by the asymmetry between open societies and despotic regimes that control their media and online platforms while waging propaganda wars against democracies. Polarisation on these two levels is fuelling increased tension," according to RSF.
The introduction also notes that the invasion of Ukraine (106th) by Russia (155th) at the end of February reflects this process, as "the physical conflict was preceded by a propaganda war. China (175th), one of the world’s most repressive autocratic regimes, uses its legislative arsenal to confine its population and cut it off from the rest of the world, especially the population of Hong Kong (148th), which has plummeted in the Index. Confrontation between "blocs" is growing, as seen between nationalist Narendra Modi’s India (150th) and Pakistan (157th). The lack of press freedom in the Middle East continues to impact the conflict between Israel (86th), Palestine (170th) and the Arab states," according to the introduction.
The report also highlights how "media polarisation is feeding and reinforcing internal social divisions in democratic societies such as the United States (42nd), despite President Joe Biden’s election. The increase in social and political tension is being fuelled by social media and new opinion media, especially in France (26th). The suppression of independent media is contributing to a sharp polarisation in "illiberal democracies" such as Poland (66th), where the authorities have consolidated their control over public broadcasting and their strategy of "re-Polonising" the privately-owned media.
The introduction notes that the trio of Nordic countries at the top of the Index – Norway, Denmark and Sweden – "continues to serve as a democratic model where freedom of expression flourishes, while Moldova (40th) and Bulgaria (91st) stand out this year thanks to a government change and the hope it has brought for improvement in the situation for journalists even if oligarchs still own or control the media".
In contrast, the situation is classified as "very bad" in a record number of 28 countries in this year’s Index, while 12 countries, including Belarus (153rd) and Russia (155th), are on the Index’s red list (indicating "very bad" press freedom situations) on the map. The world’s 10 worst countries for press freedom include Myanmar (176th), where the February 2021 coup d’état set press freedom back by 10 years, as well as China (175th), Turkmenistan (177th), Iran (178th), Eritrea (179th) and North Korea (180th), according to RSF.