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Association of Taiwan Journalists protests exclusion from WHA

2018/05/17 17:17:31

CNA file photo

Taipei, May 17 (CNA) The Association of Taiwan Journalists (ATJ) lodged a strong protest with the United Nations Thursday, following its refusal to accredit Taiwanese reporters to attend next week's meeting of the 71st World Health Assembly (WHA), the decision-making body of the World Health Organization.

CNA first broke the news on Tuesday after two of its reporters had their applications to cover the annual meeting rejected.

The e-mail to the CNA journalists from the WHO read: "We regret to inform you that your registration for the meeting has not been approved."

The response offered no explanation as to why the application was rejected.

Since then, multiple international groups and local journalists have spoken out against the decision, blaming it on the behind the scenes intervention of Beijing and China's continued efforts to suppress Taiwan in the international sphere.

ATJ's statement noted that "it is absurd that the political agenda of one (country) should be put before the well being of 7 billion people," referring to the fact that this is the second year in a row Taiwan has been excluded from the WHA and its reporters denied access to cover the event.

The association called out WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus for inconsistencies in what he has said the organization strives for and its actions.

For example, in May 2017 Ghebreyesus said he stands for the rights of the poor, which ATJ interpreted to mean that he should stand for the right of Taiwan in this case as it is being deprived of representation to the WHA.

Furthermore, he has also said that "making the agency transparent and accountable" is one of his top priorities, which the association said is difficult to achieve by excluding journalists from the event.

ATJ concluded its statement with a call to action for members of the International Federation of Journalists, whose president Philippe Leruth called the UN and its specialized agency the WHO's decision "unacceptable" the day before, to support press freedom and protest the decision, while asking the UN to "adhere to the principles it claims to uphold."

Freedom House, an independent watchdog of democracies around he world, also weighed in on the issue.

Arch Puddington, a distinguished scholar in democracy studies at Freedom House, called the WHO's actions "the latest in a series of capitulations by international agencies and private businesses to China's censorship requirements."

He went on to mention Beijing's recent pressure on U.S. companies to list Taiwan as part of China, saying that the U.S. should actively object to such intimidation.

"The world's leading democracies and its principal international entities have too often failed to stand firm against these kinds of pressure tactics, so China is only increasing its bullying of those who don't share its world view. It's time to change that trajectory," Puddington concluded.

(By Kuan-lin Liu and Yin Chun-chieh)