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Government retracts threat to shut down cable news network over critical talk show

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an IFJ media release:

Taiwan Government threatens cable network

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomes the Taiwanese Government's decision to retract its threats to shut down cable news network TVBS.

The Taiwanese president backed down from earlier threats to close the network after public outcry over the decision.

The Government Information Office (GIO) said the network, which has a large Hong Kong-based investor, has violated a law barring foreigners from controlling more than 50 per cent of a domestic television station.

However, according to IFJ sources, the government has always known about the network's investors, and only took action after TVBS's prime-time talk show criticised top politicians.

The popular call-in show recently exposed a series of corruption allegations surrounding the construction of a subway system in Kaohsiung.

"The threat to close the TVBS was not a response to any laws being broken; it was a direct attempt to silence the recent criticism of the government," said IFJ president Christopher Warren.

The network has said that only 47 per cent of TVBS is controlled by Hong Kong's TVB International, with the remaining 53 per cent stake held by a local Taiwan-registered company.

TVBS also argued that its news programs are obligated to monitor the government and pursue the truth and do not target any particular political party or individuals.

Earlier this year in August, the government shut down seven cable television channels, including news channel ETTV-S. At the time, the Department of Broadcasting Affairs said the licences were revoked because the channels had violated new broadcasting regulations and the government had to "clean up" the industry.

However, many called the move a blow to press freedom, and the IFJ stressed the need for an independent media body to deal with licensing issues.

"The government cannot shut down stations and networks just because they are critical of politicians. It is the media's job to look critically at the government, and journalists must not be silenced for doing their jobs," said the IFJ president.

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries.

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