Two largely fabricated media reports of Sunday, June 23 presented the image that all or most foreigners in Taiwan are involved with drugs, specifically ecstasy and marijuana. Though this will probably come to nothing as many of the made-up reports in the Taiwan media do, the chicken little in me says that Taiwan is becoming paranoid about its growing drug problem, has no idea what to do about it or how to control it, and needs a scapegoat. Foreigner could be the answer.
After I wrote one article and one editorial about the media’s specious reporting and what was behind it (Taipei Times, June 27), a number of people informed me of several other stories of xenophobia combined with media negligence. Perhaps not coincidentally, Power TV figured in several of them. Examples include the following: one man was captured on camera at a Superbowl party at Dan Ryan’s, but the clip was later aired in relation to a story about ecstasy use, prompting his Chinese mother-in-law to call him and ask him if he was on drugs (Power TV); a number of foreigners shown in the June 23 report were shown on Power TV with the implication that they were drug users, and many later had to answer to spouses, coworkers and relatives about their “drug use”; one woman was secretly filmed walking out of a convenience store, and the clip appeared in a media report about foreigners with the voice-over: “this woman refused to talk to us”, even though the woman was never aware of the news crew’s presence (this story is second hand, and the teller could not clearly remember the content of the news item or the network that aired it); one foreigner in Tainan reported that the June 23 Power TV story “stirred up suspicions and comments amongst some shop/bar owners and others(students’ parents,…)” – these were naturally directed at foreigners.
To briefly recap what happened on June 23: Power TV repeatedly broadcast a report showing foreigners and describing all party-goers as “under the influence of Ecstasy and marijuana”. They also made statements like: “It is a place where foreigners gather, so it’s not strange that there was selling and buying of drugs going on.”
The same day, the China Times Express ran a front page headline that read: “Foreigners on Ecstasy invade Huashan Arts District.”
Power TV also ran a clip of Taipei City Councilor Wang Shih-jian saying: “Taipei is becoming a foreigners’ drug [lit. ecstasy] heaven.” Wang made other derogatory and accusatory comments against foreigners at his June 23 press conference, which he held with City Councilor Yan Sheng-guan. It is likely that Wang and Yan conspired with Power TV to produce the news segment. Both are DPP, and their aim was to attack Mayor Ma and also get their faces in the press (Yan is the daughter of a senior DPP politician, and her track record in office so far is virtually nil).
So what can be done?
I suggest complaints over lawsuits. Lawsuits, even for those captured on video, will be difficult unless damages can be proved. Furthermore, it is extremely unlikely that AIT or the Canadian, British or Australian trade offices would undertake anything like a class action lawsuit on behalf of their wronged citizens. However, that does not mean that they should be contacted.
By my reckoning, complaints can be made along at least three avenues:
- For those affected, complain to Dan Ryan’s or any other establishment where your image was captured so that it could be misrepresented later. Tell them to never let Power TV back in the door.
- The Government Information Office (GIO), which has an office for monitoring complaints on media reports. This is the mainstream channel for such complaints, though one suspects it is underused. Maybe it’s time to give them something to do.
- The Mayor’s office. Mayor Ma not only tends to be sympathetic to foreigners, he also has City Councilors Wang and Yan as adversaries. Complaints to his office could prove effective.
- Your national representative office.
Faxes are also suggested over emails and phone calls. Faxes provide physical documents that must be dealt with. Also, include your full name and contact information on your complaints to make them credible.
Government Information Office: TV Broadcasting Department, section 4; tel: 3356-7938 ;fax: 2321-4197
Taipei City Mayor’s Office; tel: 2727-7726; fax: ; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Australian Commerce and Industry Office: contact Lauren Hu, Manager of Public Relations; tel: 8725-4113; fax:2720-2846
Canadian Trade Office: contact Michael Otton, Director of Administration and Consular Affairs; tel: 2544-3000; fax: 2544-3592
British Trade and Cultural Office: contact Alan Dillon, head of British Assistance & Services Section; tel: 2192-7056; fax: 2394-8673; email: email@example.com
American Chamber of Commerce: tel: 2581-7089; fax: 2542-3376; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
American Institute in Taiwan: contact the American Services Section; tel: 2709-2000, ext. 2306; fax: 2709-0908; email: email@example.com