Taipei, Jimmy Lai (黎智英), the founder of the Apple Daily newspaper, received the Special Prize at the 2020 RSF Press Freedom Awards Ceremony organized by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Tuesday in Taipei.
According to RSF, the jury bestowed the prize on Lai because his media is one of the few Hong Kong media that widely covered last year’s pro-democracy protests there and dares to criticize the Chinese regime.
The award was received on his behalf by his son, Sebastian Lai (黎崇恩), as his father was arrested in August and denied bail on fraud charges.
Cédric Alviani, RSF’s East Asia bureau head, told CNA that “it is very important that democracies unite to support Hong Kong.”
Alviani also remarked upon Taiwan’s democracy and its role in maintaining freedom of the press, commenting that Taiwan “presents a countermodel to the Chinese authoritarian regime.”
He urged the Taiwanese government to “increase its efforts to provide support to journalists, especially those who need to leave Hong Kong due to (Beijing’s) pressure.”
Besides Lai, the other three award recipients were the Russian journalist Elena Milashina, who won the Prize for Courage, the Afghan radio station Merman, which was awarded the Prize for Impact, and Lina Attalah, chief editor of Egypt’s Mada Masr, a prominent independent news outlet, with the Prize for Independence.
Due to COVID-19 travel bans, they all received their awards through pre-recorded videos.
Earlier that same day, the RSF also held the 2020 Taiwan International Journalism Conference, addressing the crackdown on Hong Kong’s press freedom and the changes in the media environment since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under the theme “Journalism in the Post-COVID Era,” the conference invited two speakers to share their thoughts on press freedom and media literacy, respectively.
One of the speakers, Lee Chih-te (李志德), a member of the Standing Committee of the Association of Taiwan Journalists, focused on the impact of China’s national security law on journalists based in Hong Kong.
Lee cited RSF’s World Press Freedom Index, lamenting that Hong Kong’s ranking has dropped since 2010 due to Beijing’s influence.
Lee said Hong Kong’s press freedom was “severely suppressed” when its government denied a routine visa renewal for Victor Mallet, then-Financial Times’ Asia news editor in 2018, marking the the first de facto expulsion of a foreign correspondent since Hong Kong’s 1997 return to China.
Eva Teng (滕西華), the CEO of Media Watch, a Taiwanese nongovernmental organization that advocates media literacy, explained in her speech how the pandemic could shape journalism.
“The government’s disease response policies could possibly undermine Taiwan’s freedom of press,” said Teng.
Under a current special act for COVID-19 prevention, those who spread disinformation could face three years in prison or be fined up to NT$3 million (US$106,241).
“The government’s decision about whether information is true or not is rather arbitrary,” said Teng, adding that “the so-called experts can make biased decisions under social pressure.”
Teng also addressed the safety awareness of journalists, pointing out that last month, a journalist asking questions about the possibility of community infection during a press briefing held by the Central Epidemic Command Center was later bullied on the internet because her questions were qualified as “jinxing the government’s efforts to control disease.”
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel