Taiwan on front line of Chinese disinformation, cyberattacks: Blinken

05/04/2022 12:49 PM
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CNA photo May 4, 2022
CNA photo May 4, 2022

Washington, May 3 (CNA) Taiwan is on the front line of Chinese disinformation and cyberattacks, which is why the U.S. is partnering with it to build greater resilience against Beijing's disinformation efforts, United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday.

Asked by CNA to comment on the State Department's repeated warnings that China has tried for years to pressure media outlets in Taiwan to not publish articles critical of Beijing, Blinken said Taiwan is "quite literally on the front lines of the PRC's hybrid warfare, including disinformation and cyberattacks."

Such warfare is designed to distort the information environment and democratic processes, he said at a press event at the State Department's Washington Foreign Press Center on Tuesday, World Press Freedom Day.

To counter such attacks, the U.S. has joined with Taiwan authorities and civil society organizations, "to support independent, fact-based journalism, to try to build societal resilience to disinformation and other forms of foreign interference," he said, without offering any examples.

Blinken said the Joe Biden administration has made it clear that free speech is incredibly important both at home and around the world.

He reiterated Washington's deep concern that the PRC has been misusing technology to increase "surveillance, harassment, intimidation, censorship of PRC citizens, of journalists, of activists and others."

He also accused leaders in Beijing of using the free and open media to spread propaganda and disinformation and to threaten critics even outside the PRC's territory.

"We've condemned and we've taken action against these efforts, and we'll continue to defend the principles of a free press, an open, secure, reliable, and interoperable internet and the benefits that flow from it," he said.

In his opening address at the event, Blinken said the U.S. has a vital stake in promoting the right to freedom of expression as vibrant independent press is a "cornerstone for any healthy democracy."

In recent years, however, more governments, most noticeably Russia, China and the Taliban government in Afghanistan, are taking steps to control access to information and news on the internet, whether through shutdowns, slowdowns, or outright censorship, he said.

These restrictions make it harder for information from inside closed areas to get out, and news from the outside to get in.

In response, the U.S. is working to push back against this, including taking urgent steps to help protect journalists in conflict areas; raising the profile of cases of journalists who are being targeted for their work, and helping independent media in financial peril, according to Blinken.

(By Stacy Hsu and Joseph Yeh)

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