Smangus documentary to screen on PTS

Smangus: A Year in the Clouds, a documentary about the Atayal community of Smangus, will screen on Taiwan’s Public Television Service (PTS) tonight (30 June). The documentary had its premiere in Smangus on Tuesday night. It is a co-production between PTS and British documentary makers Dean Johnson and Frank Smith. The team filmed various aspects of the daily life in Smangus over a period of 15 months.

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Taiwan’s press freedom ranking improves: RSF

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) released its 2010 Press Freedom Index today. The index ranked Taiwan 48th in the world. This was an improvement of 11 places on its position last year. It is still lower than Taiwan’s 36th place in 2008.

 RSF called the performance of Asia’s democratic countries “impressive.” Japan, ranked 11th, held the highest position of any Asian country. RSF noted, “Taiwan and South Korea, rose 11 and 27 places respectively, after noteworthy falls in the 2009 Index. Although some problems persist, such as the issue of the state-owned media’s editorial independence.”  Continue reading

Approaching storms and millet harvest in Smangus

millet harvest in Smangus

I went on a trip to Smangus this week. I carefully checked the weather forecast on Sunday night before I left. I was aware that Tropical Storm Lionrock and the low pressure system to the northwest of Taiwan would influence the weather during the week. However, it seemed unlikely that either of them would directly impact Taiwan. By the time I arrived in Smangus on Monday afternoon the potential tracks of the storms had changed. The low pressure system had been upgraded to a tropical storm named Namtheun and was heading for the north of Taiwan. Continue reading

Paris and Taipei cycling experience

Paris, Taipei: Bicycles Forever (巴黎.台北 單車萬歲) is a documentary directed by Jean-Robert Thomann (尚若白). It looks at the experience of bicycle commuters in Paris and Taipei. I went to the premiere screening at Eslite Dunnan Bookstore today and it will screen on PTS (公視) tomorrow.

The documentary explores the attitudes of those who have chosen to use a bicycle as their primary form of transport. It looks at both the positives and negatives of this lifestyle choice. The people featured are quite a diverse group. I thought the most interesting one was a woman who uses a bicycle to send her two children to school. If only more people in Taipei would follow her example.

The documentary also considers the development of bicycle paths and bike sharing systems. Taipei’s U-bike system obviously lags a long way behind Paris’s Velib system. It shows that while there have been some improvements in Taipei, the city still has a long way to go before it provides a friendly environment for bicycle commuters.

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Taiwan press freedom declines: report

Reporters Without Borders 2009 report on world press freedom ranked Taiwan 59th in the world. This was a significant drop from Taiwan’s ranking of 36th in 2008.

Japan was the leading country in Asia ranked 17th. Reporters Without Borders noted that both South Korea, at 69th, and Taiwan had fallen in the rankings this year. Regarding Taiwan it wrote, “The new ruling party in Taiwan tried to interfere in state and privately-owned media while violence by certain activists further undermined press freedom.”

Reporters Without Borders’ website contains two reports expressing concern about problems with Taiwan’s media in the past twelve months. In November 2008 at least ten journalists were injured in protests over the visit of Chinese official Chen Yunlin. It is important to note that several journalists were injured or interfered with by police or security guards, it was not just the result of the actions of protesters. In December concerns were raised over government interference in public media, including Radio Taiwan International, the Central News Agency and Public Television Service.

Earlier this year Taiwan’s ranking also fell in Freedom House’s 2009 Freedom of the Press report. Although Freedom House still classified Taiwan’s media as free.

Update: The Taipei Times has an article with quotes from GIO Minister Su Jun-pin (蘇俊賓).

Vignettes of a day in Taipei

At the beginning of the screening of Taipei 24H (台北異想) there was an ad featuring Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin promoting Taipei City as a site for film production. Hau introduces some locations in the city before ending the ad by announcing an NT$2.5 million dollar subsidy for film makers making films in Taipei through the Taipei Film Commission.

I am not sure if there was a direct connection between the ad and Taipei 24H, which was produced by PTS (公共電視). However, Taipei 24H was also something of a showcase for Taipei as it is seen by local film makers. It also highlighted a diverse range of talents and ideas. Continue reading

Freedom House reports declining media freedom


Freedom House has just released its annual report on media freedom. The report showed press freedom declining for the seventh straight year. Taiwan’s media freedom declined slightly. It previously had the freest media in Asia, but now ranks second behind Japan.

The survey gives countries a score between zero and 100. The lower the score the more free that country’s media is. In 2008 Taiwan ranked 32nd in the world with a score of 20. In 2009 Taiwan slipped back to 43rd with a score of 23. Freedom House noted, “Media in Taiwan faced assault and growing government pressure.” Taiwan’s media is still classified as “Free”. Freedom House notes that declines in Taiwan, Italy and Israel illustrate that established democracies with traditionally open media are not immune to restricting media freedom. Continue reading

Citizen journalism in Taiwan

I came across this article by Rachel Sterne via a link on Portnoy’s blog. I have reproduced it here under a Creative Commons licence. It gives some good insights into the important role that citizen media plays in Taiwan and the current situation of PTS.

In Taiwan, Citizen Journalism Fights Censors and Sensation

It was a tough time for Taiwanese media.

On December 11, 2008 I walked into the brightly decorated offices of Taiwan Public Television Service (PTS).  PTS has a core mission to broadcast ‘in service of the public interest, maintain independent media operation and defend freedom of speech’– unusual pursuits in the Chinese-language press.

I was there to talk about, their citizen journalism platform, but the drama of the past week hung in the air. Continue reading