Coronavirus: WHO urged to lift ban on Taiwanese reporters

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the World Health Organization (WHO) to lift its ban on Taiwanese journalists, which violates the universal right to information and is undermining efforts to combat the coronavirus epidemic.

The international community is working together through the WHO to combat the pandemic, but the WHO – under pressure from China – continues to to bar Taiwanese media outlets and reporters from its events and press conferences on the grounds that the United Nations, of which the WHO is an offshoot, does not recognize Taiwan and its passport.

From 2009 to 2016, when Beijing was seeking a rapprochement with Taiwan, the UN and WHO nonetheless issued accreditation without any problem to Taiwanese media outlets and journalists that requested it.

RSF urges Beijing to stop pressuring the WHO, and asks WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres to put an immediate stop to this discriminatory practice, which deprives the Taiwanese scientific community and public of vital updates about the latest coronavirus discoveries.

“Denying Taiwanese journalists access to WHO and UN activities is a flagrant violation of the right to seek and receive information that is enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” said Cédric Alviani, the head of RSF’s East Asia bureau. “During a global health crisis, transparency and information-sharing are more necessary than ever and can undoubtedly save many lives.”

Taiwan has in practice been independent since 1949 and is governed democratically, but Beijing claims sovereignty over the island and does everything possible to isolate it internationally. The WHO has been criticized for sidelining the Taiwanese authorities and media ever since the start of the pandemic although Taiwan’s handling of the coronavirus crisis is regarded as exemplary.

Taiwan is ranked 43rd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index while China is ranked 177th.

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Updated on 29.04.2020