Taiwan refused on Wednesday to renew the license of a news channel widely seen as pro-China, effectively shutting it down, citing evidence of interference from a Beijing-friendly tycoon amid fears over China’s campaign to win support on the island.
The rejection of CTi cable’s request is the first time Taiwan has shut, even though indirectly, a television news station since the regulator, the National Communications Commission was set up in 2006.
The decision provoked immediate anger from CTi and Taiwan’s main opposition party, which called it an attack on media freedom.
Taiwan’s government has repeatedly said China has stepped up efforts, including a media campaign, to infiltrate and gain influence on the democratic island, which Beijing considers its own and has threatened to use force to bring under its control.
Commission head Chen Yaw-shyang said the rejection decision was unanimous and cited accusations of interference in CTi’s editorial independence by major shareholder Tsai Eng-meng, who runs one of China’s largest food firms, Want Want China Holdings Ltd.
“It is a fact that their biggest shareholder had directly interfered in the news desk of CTi,” Chen said.
CTi had been fined for several violations such as failure to check facts and endangering the public interest, he added.
“The Tsai government has closed CTi; press freedom is dead!” CTi wrote on its Facebook page in response, referring to President Tsai Ing-wen.
The channel, which vowed to fight the decision in court, has denied favouring China, saying the government is seeking to silence those who do not support its policies.
Chen said CTi received more than 920 complaints last year, about a third of the total for all news channels in Taiwan.
However, he said, there was no evidence that CTi had received Chinese government funding.
Reuters could not immediately reach key shareholder Tsai to seek comment, but he has previously rejected accusations of newroom interference.
Tsai’s family owns two television stations and several newspapers and cable networks in Taiwan.
The Kuomintang, Taiwan’s main opposition party, said it opposed the decision, as it could have a “chilling effect, strongly impacting press freedom”. Reuters