The International Press Institute’s Annual World Congress and 61st General Assembly in Taipei, Taiwan, began today with an address by the President of the Republic of China (Taiwan), Ma Ying-jeou. The President’s address emphasized his country’s commitment to humanitarian assistance, and its role as a force for peace in the region. It also emphasized the constructive steps Taiwan has taken to improve relations with mainland China and other countries around the world.
The 25-27 September IPI World Congress in Taiwan is bringing together over 250 participants from across the world.
“Since its founding, the IPI has been a staunch champion of press freedom”, said the President. “In addition to promoting democracy around the world, it has fought tirelessly to defend the rights and improve the working conditions of news media professionals. IPI members are actually warriors for human dignity who do not shrink from addressing sensitive or controversial issues. They courageously criticize those who wield power, and they come to the aid of media colleagues who are subject to violence and intimidation”
“The IPI stresses the imperative necessity of press freedom for the advancement of democracy—a conviction I personally share. Freedom of the press is a fundamental human right guaranteed by the Constitution of the Republic of China which is a cornerstone of our democratic system, which I have striven to uphold.”
The President also paid tribute to the long relationship that Taiwan has shared with the organisation, making special mention of the transition in Taiwan’s press freedom record in the years since the end of martial law.
Speaking of this transition, Duncan Wang, the Chairman of IPI’s ROC National Chapter, and the host – as head of Taiwan’s United Daily News group – of this year’s congress, said:
“In 1999, Taipei hosted the IPI World Congress for the first time. Prior to the 90’s, Taiwan had been under martial law for over 40 years – which imposed various restrictions on the press.
“Martial law and the ban on opposing political parties were finally lifted in 1988, moving Taiwan forward on its path towards democracy. Lifting of the restrictions on the press further facilitated free competition in Taiwan’s media industry. Press freedom: that is what helped Taiwan secure its first successful bid to host the IPI World Congress.
“Now, twelve years have passed, during which Taiwan has had two peaceful transfers of power between the two major parties. The media continues to flourish, with more than 100 cable TV channels. Taiwan’s media industry has become highly competitive.”
Several of the speakers at the event also stressed the state of transition in the media.
Dr. Carl Eugen Eberle, Chairman of the IPI Executive Board, said: “While pressure on press freedom is growing, information is finding new channels to the public. Microblogs, social networks, and video channels have become in recent years an enormous and powerful source of information – and a target. Recently, we saw governments toppled in northern Africa. One important reason for this was the speed with which information spread through these new channels.”
Referring to this transition, Duncan Wang said: “Technology has also sent shock waves through the media industry and brought about a revolution. At the 1999 IPI World Congress, the issues of Internet technology were already a topic of much discussion. Today, the shock waves have turned into a tornado. One of the important issues we will be addressing this year is how to adapt and triumph in this challenging media environment.
“For traditional media, this is the worst of times, but also the best of times, because digital development has taken away opportunities, but at the same time given new hopes.”
The International Press Institute also presented its annual “Director’s Report on Press Freedom in 2011” at the opening ceremony.
“I wish I could stand here today and report significant improvements in the press freedom climate around the world so far in 2011,” said IPI Director Alison Bethel McKenzie. “Unfortunately, the 82 journalists killed in the first eight and a half months of this year are a bleak reminder of the continuing perils faced by reporters everywhere.”
The report outlined developments in press freedom around the world so far this year.
Over the next three days, the IPI World Congress will continue to address issues related to the media and specifically to the changing media landscape in Asia. More information on the event, the program and the speakers is available at www.ipiworldcongress.com.