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Taiwan's democracy serves as model for region: U.S. official

2018/10/18 14:45:38

Taipei, Oct. 18 (CNA) Taiwan's vibrant democracy, respect for freedom and commitment to the rule of law make it an "invaluable model" for many countries in the Indo-Pacific region that are suffering from democratic backsliding, visiting U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Scott Busby said Thursday.

During an address in Taipei at a Taiwan-U.S. co-hosted workshop on defending democracy through media literacy, Busby praised Taiwan's democratic achievements as something from which other countries in the region can learn.

"Looking to the Indo-Pacific region, we have seen disinformation used to instigate devastating human rights violations and abuses and erode democratic governance," he said.

Busby, who overseas U.S. engagement on human rights in Africa, East Asia and the Pacific, pointed the finger at Myanmar, where its military has been spreading disinformation through social media to propagate racism and dehumanization against the minority Rohingya.

"This disinformation has catalyzed severe discrimination and waves of violence against the Rohingya, which culminated in the ethnic cleansing that took place in northern Rakhine State in 2017 and forced over 700,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh," he noted.

Elsewhere in the region, governments have used legal provisions to weaken independent news sources and manipulate the environment for major elections, the U.S. official said, including in Cambodia, where July parliamentary elections "were neither free nor fair."

In Vietnam, meanwhile, its government has recently launched a harsh crackdown on independent bloggers and journalists critical of the government, he added.

"At a time of democratic backsliding and human rights abuses elsewhere in the Indo-Pacific region, Taiwan serves as an invaluable model for others," he said.

Busby said the ongoing two-day workshop on the fight against disinformation is "timely and important," adding that it is important for democracies like Taiwan and the U.S. to stand together in promoting a "brighter future, free of repression, censorship and exploitation."

According to Busby, Taiwan knows "all too well how a determined external actor with hostile intentions can place enormous strain on democratic institutions through various influence tactics, including disinformation," referring to Beijing.

To meet the challenge of disinformation will require the efforts of both the government and private sector, as well as an active and informed citizenry, he concluded.

The two-day Taipei workshop is being held under the Taiwan-U.S. Global Cooperation and Training Framework (GCTF), according to the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), which represents U.S. interests in Taiwan in the absence of official diplomatic ties.

Established in June 2015, the GCTF is designed to support bilateral cooperation in international public health, humanitarian assistance and other global issues.

The workshop features participants from 12 countries spanning two continents, who will share lessons and practices to deepen international cooperation on promoting media literacy.

This marks the 13th workshop since the GCTF's inception, AIT said.

(By Joseph Yeh)
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