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Taiwan only Asian country rated 'open' in NGO civil space report

12/06/2023 04:50 PM
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CNA file photo
CNA file photo

Bangkok, Dec. 6 (CNA) Taiwan is the only country in Asia to be rated "open" in the "People Power Under Attack 2023" report published Wednesday by human rights NGO CIVICUS.

CIVICUS works with over 20 regional human rights organizations worldwide each year to assess civic space in countries and territories. The aspects investigated are freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of assembly, with each country then designated as "open," "narrowed," "obstructed," "repressed," or "closed."

As well as being the only country rated open in Asia, Taiwan is also the only nation on the continent to have received the top rating for five consecutive years.

Josef Benedict, CIVICUS researcher for the Asia Pacific region, told CNA in an interview that receiving the "open" rating is positive for Taiwan, particularly as several other Asian nations were downgraded this year. He added that the rating signals there are still parts of the region that value human rights and civic space.

He noted that Taiwan serves as a haven in the region for the many journalists and dissidents who face oppression in nearby countries and that other nations should look to Taiwan for ways to improve their civic space.

Citing Reporters Without Borders data, CIVICUS pointed out that Taiwan ranked 35th in the 2023 World Press Freedom Index, that the nation offers a free environment for journalists and that the government generally respects media freedom.

It added that "people in Taiwan are free to hold protests in public places and form associations" and that "the authorities are tolerant of criticism from civil society groups and provide space and platforms for open and robust dialogue with members of the public."

Despite Taiwan's positive development, Benedict pointed out that there is still space for improvement on issues such as the right to strike and defamation laws that could be used against freedom of speech.

Regarding other Asian nations, Japan, South Korea, and Mongolia were rated "narrowed," with East Timor also in the category this year, upgraded from last year's "obstructed" rating.

Five were in the "obstructed" category -- Bhutan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, and Nepal.

Brunei, Cambodia, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand remained in the "repressed" category, and Sri Lanka became the latest addition to that category, after being downgraded from "obstructed."

Afghanistan, China, Hong Kong, Laos, Myanmar, North Korea, and Vietnam remained in the closed category, to which Bangladesh was also added.

Meanwhile, in the 2023 report, 37 out of 198 countries or territories worldwide were rated "open," 43 were rated "narrowed," 40 were rated "obstructed," while 50 and 28 were in the "repressed" and "closed" categories, respectively.

According to CIVICUS, 30.6 percent of the global population live in countries rated "closed," the highest ever since it first started tracking civic space conditions worldwide in 2018.

CIVICUS warned that global civic space therefore faces threats never seen before and called for immediate action to address this issue.

(By Lu Hsin-hui and Bernadette Hsiao)


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