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Taiwanese reporters again excluded from WHA due to Chinese pressure

05/21/2024 10:44 PM
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Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

Paris, May 21 (CNA) Two Taiwanese journalists from the Taipei-based Central News Agency (CNA) were again denied press access to next week's World Health Assembly (WHA) apparently due to Chinese opposition after they were asked to provide a "Chinese passport" in order to apply for media credentials to cover the event.

Tien Hsi-ju (田習如) and Judy Tseng (曾婷瑄), Brussels-based and Paris-based correspondents with CNA, Taiwan's national news agency, recently submitted documents for media accreditation through the U.N. Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit (MALU) online accreditation system before the WHA meeting is set to start on May 27 in Geneva, Switzerland.

However, since there is no "Taiwan" or "Republic of China (ROC, Taiwan's official name)" option in the U.N. accreditation system's drop-down menu of countries, the two CNA respondents selected "Thailand" and "Tuvalu" but specified in the notes section that they are reporters from "Taiwan (Republic of China)."

Tien and Tseng applied for media accreditation to cover the WHA in the same manner as they did last year, when their applications were initially approved but later rejected. At the time, they were informed by U.N. staff that they would not be permitted to claim their press passes due to pressure from China.

This year, the two CNA reporters encountered obstacles during the application phase. They received responses from the application review unit on May 9 and May 10, respectively, requiring them to provide "official Chinese passports" in line with U.N. policies and the guidance of U.N. General Assembly resolutions.

Tien said she then submitted a copy of her Republic of China (Taiwan) passport with supporting documents, but has heard no response.

According to Tseng, she also uploaded a copy of her passport and specified in the notes column: "The ROC passport is widely recognized in the world. A ROC passport holder can enter 110 countries without visa, while a PRC passport can get you (to) only 45 countries without visa."

Tseng said she also specified in the notes column that barring Taiwanese journalists from covering the meetings contradicts the WHA's principle of pursuing the universal welfare of all human beings.

She added that she implored the event organizers to allow journalists to carry out their task regardless of nationality or race to protect people's right to know.

However, Tseng said she has not received any reply so far and her application status is "pending."

Also Tuesday, the Association of Taiwan Journalists (ATJ) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) called on the U.N. to end exclusion of Taiwan journalists from the WHA.

The ATJ emphasized in a statement that the U.N. could not be unaware of the relationship between Taiwan and China, yet it still requires Taiwanese reporters to show "Chinese passports" that they cannot possibly possess.

The move is tantamount to denying Taiwanese journalists access to report the annual WHA and constitutes not only a breach of the U.N. Charter but also a violation of freedom of speech and freedom of the press, the ATJ said.

Meanwhile, the IFJ said in an English statement: "Events like the World Health Assembly hold significant importance to people in all countries and it is the responsibility of the United Nations and other presiding authorities to ensure that the media can conduct its duties without interference from special interests. The United Nations and its affiliate organisations must fulfill its commitments to press freedom."

The WHA is the annual meeting of the governing body of the WHO, a U.N.-affiliated agency.

Taiwan, formally called the Republic of China, withdrew from the WHO in 1972, after losing its U.N. seat to the People's Republic of China due to the issue of "China's representation."

Since then, Taiwan has not been able to attend the WHA due to objections from China, except from 2009 to 2016, when cross-Taiwan Strait relations were warmer under the then Kuomintang government.

Taiwanese reporters have been banned from covering the annual WHA since 2017.

(By Tien Hsi-ju, Judy Tseng and Evelyn Kao)


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