Media and Elections

The media environment in Taiwan is considerably open and free, with numerous media outlets reflecting diverse views and actively and critically reporting on government policies and performance. Taiwan ranked 7th out of 40 countries in Asia in Freedom House’s 2016 Freedom of the Press Report, with a ranking of 1 being the most free.

According to Freedom House, Taiwan has over 360 privately owned newspapers, numerous radio stations, and more than 280 television channels [1]. In addition to traditional media, social media has a growing influence in Taiwanese politics and elections, as Taiwan’s increasingly civically active youth rely more heavily on social media than traditional news sources to access political news and also use it to organize social movements and campaigns. As a result, political parties in the January 2016 elections used social media including Facebook and Line to target young voters.

Taiwan’s constitution protects freedom of speech and of the press, and laws exist to ensure the independence of the media. For example, government and political party officials are legally barred from holding positions or assets in privately-owned broadcast media companies, an independent National Communications Commission (NCC) determines guidelines and licenses for broadcast media, and print media is free of government regulation.

However, while the legal framework protects media independence, in practice there exists significant media bias and Taiwanese media outlets display clear preferences for particular parties and/or candidates in their coverage of politics and elections. This political polarization combined with imbalances in the number of media outlets affiliated with or controlled by a particular political party can contribute to an uneven playing field in elections, as ANFREL observed in Taiwan’s 2012 general elections [2].

In addition, economic and political influence from China poses a threat to media freedom, as a number of Taiwanese media owners have business interests in China or rely on advertising from Chinese companies, which leaves them vulnerable to pressure to conform with political views favorable to Beijing. Within the past two years, some journalists have also been harassed by police and several arrested while covering protests in Taipei, including during the 2014 Sunflower Movement and at an antinuclear protest and a student demonstration against textbook reforms in 2015 [3].



[1] Freedom House – Freedom of the Press 2015: Taiwan

[2] ANFREL Election Observers’ Statement on Taiwan’s 2012 Elections

[3] Committee to Protect Journalists, “Taiwan journalists feel pressure as elections approach”

Reporters Without Borders – World Press Freedom Index country information on Taiwan

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