MOFA protests over Taiwan media exclusion from WHA

05/21/2018 02:19 PM
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Taipei, May 21 (CNA) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has expressed stern protest over the World Health Organization (WHO) denial of access to Taiwanese news outlets to its annual decision-making assembly that opened Monday, while calling on the WHO to respect press freedom.

The ministry issued a statement that day protesting and condemning the WHO's decision to refuse to grant media accreditation to journalists from Taiwan to cover this year's meeting of the World Health Assembly (WHA), the WHO's decision-making body.

It also called for WHO member-countries and international media organizations to demand that the WHO respect and protect press freedom rather than serving China's political objectives by depriving Taiwanese journalists of their right to cover news.

It is the second year in a row that Taiwan has failed to obtain an invitation to the WHA, which will hold its 71st session this year from May 21-26 in Geneva, due to China's obstruction, MOFA said.

The ministry reminded the WHO in the statement that due to Taiwan's exclusion from the global health network, Taiwan was not able to acquire instant disease information during the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003, which cost dozens of lives.

It said that the WHO, as the world's leading health organization, should safeguard the right to health of every human being, including access to health information. However, due to political factors, the WHO refused to accredit Taiwanese reporters to attend this year's WHA meeting, MOFA noted, saying that this amounts to a serious violation of the universal values of human rights enshrined in the United Nations Charter.

The ministry said it will continue to solicit support from Taiwan's diplomatic allies and countries friendly to Taiwan to lodge protests with the WHO, demanding that it not cave in to political pressure from China.

Last week, Freedom House, an independent watchdog of democracies around the world, also weighed in on the issue regarding the WHO's refusal to grant Taiwanese reporters media accreditation for the WHA.

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

In addition, Philippe Leruth, president of the International Federation of Journalists, (IFJ) said May 15 that the WHO's decision was "unacceptable."

Leruth said he will write to the institutions responsible for the decision to urge them to honor international media rights to cover the annual event.

Taiwan started seeking an invitation to the WHA in 1997, and was finally invited as an observer in 2009, under a previous Kuomintang administration that was friendly to Beijing.

It was able to attend the WHA every year from 2009 to 2016, but since a Democratic Progressive Party administration, which is less friendly to China than its predecessor, took power in 2016, Beijing blocked WHA invitations to Taiwan in 2017 and 2018.

Despite Taiwan's failure to obtain an invitation to the WHA this year, Taiwan's health minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) is in Geneva at the head of a Taiwanese delegation that will hold a series of events on the sidelines of the meeting to highlight Taiwan's desire to contribute to the international community and be allowed to participate in its institutions.

(By Elaine Hou and Evelyn Kao)


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