Title: Taiwanese Theologian Speaks out on Social Situation
Taiwan Church News 2844 28 August - 3 September 2006
Reported by Li Hsin-ren. Written by David Alexander
In the face of varied political and social groups and acts aimed at forcing Taiwan’s President Chen Shui-bian out of office before the end of his term in 2008, and responding to a recent incident wherein one political commentator struck another on live TV, the Taiwan Church News asked Dr. Chen Nan-chou, a social ethicist and vice president of Yushan Theological College, to comment. Dr. Chen feels that both affairs expose the depth and course of democratic development in Taiwan. However, he says, Taiwan’s people in general still misunderstand the role and responsibility of free media within a democratic society. The church, he says, must speak critically to Taiwan’s mass media outlets, because democracy springs from principles which the church itself holds.
Regarding the role of the politician Shih Ming-te in the movement to depose President Chen, Dr. Chen says that Mr. Shih is able to draw media attention because he has seen how sensationalist reporting has focused on the president’s apparent misuse of certain which were at his office’s disposal. The media frenzy has developed into the movement to call for the president’s resignation. But, he says, baseless media sensationalism has also driven the movement.
He says that many people make a case over the contrast between the behaviour of Mr. Shih in past decades and his current actions. But Dr. Chen says that Mr. Shih’s current actions are a totally private matter, and are unrelated to his past as a democracy activist. “The contributions of Shin Ming-te to Taiwan’s democratic movement cannot be ignored. They do not legitimate his current behaviour. Neither do his current actions diminish the value and validity of his past contributions.”
Dr. Chen asserts that Taiwan is already democratic society ruled by law. He sees that freedom of expression and self-rule have taken root deeply here. But due to sensationalist media, many cases of libel are brought and few are settled. He hopes that media abuses will eventually diminish. He sees many of the recent sensations that have happened here as “manufactured” for the sake of sensation because Taiwan’s media are unable to police and control themselves. The result is that many noble people have been damaged, and many people in general have been misled. The church, he says, must speak out on media policy.
Quoting an article in The New Dictionary of Roman Catholic Social Teaching, he points out that human character is shaped by the information which human beings receive. This principle can be applied to education, politics, medicine, proclamation or thinking. Whoever controls the information that is spread in a society makes choices for the people of that society. Dr. Chen asserts that facing Taiwan’s mass media, Christians must not shirk their responsibility to hold the controllers and dispensers of information to account.
He says that Taiwan has a democratic framework, but democratic attitudes have yet to take root. The society at large is easily led by mass media distortion. The church must call on mass media outlets to live by standards, that ideas might be freely shared. The church, which operates democratically in itself, can nourish democratic ideals in the society.
For more information: Chen Nan-chou firstname.lastname@example.org
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