The Association of Taiwan Journalists yesterday condemned the UN and WHO for refusing to issue Taiwanese journalists press accreditation to cover the World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva.

The association urged the UN, which has denied Taiwanese journalists press accreditation for three consecutive years, to respect press freedom and not to sacrifice Taiwanese journalists' rights to satisfy China's political repression against Taiwan.

"Press freedom in China keeps deteriorating each year. The UN should push for press freedom in China, rather than helping China to oppress Taiwanese journalists' rights," Chen Hsiao-yi, director of the association, told a press conference yesterday in the National Youth Commission's Youth Hub.

Yang Chi-yi, a photographer from TVBS who went to cover the WHA last year without press accreditation, shared his disappointment yesterday over UN's discrimination against Taiwanese journalists.

"We tried many ways to get the press accreditation, but the UN told us that we will never get it as long as we apply for the accreditation with Taiwanese passports," Yang said.

"The UN should push for press freedom in China, rather than helping China to oppress Taiwanese journalists' rights."

Without press accreditation, Yang said it was extremely difficult for Taiwanese journalists to cover the event, as they were banned from attending WHA meetings, and photographers were prohibited from carrying cameras inside.

Press accreditations used to be issued by the WHO, but the right to issue the documents was handed to the UN in 2004 under pressure from China, Chen said.

According to the UN's Web site regarding the criteria for media accreditation, the UN Department of Public Information (DPI) must be satisfied that "individuals applying for accreditation are bona fide media professionals and represent bona fide media organizations [formally registered] in a country recognized by the UN's General Assembly." The UN also requires that applicants present a valid ID which must include "a current passport from a State recognized by the UN General Assembly."

Reporters Without Borders has sent a letter to the UN urging it to issue media accreditation to Taiwanese journalists. The association will also send a petition with more than 30 signatures from Taiwanese journalists to the UN, Chen said, adding that the International Federation for Journalists (IFJ) and the Association of European Journalists would also join efforts to support Taiwanese journalists.

The Government Information Office (GIO) meanwhile launched an online petition drive to promote the country's bid to enter the WHO.

The petition, titled "Say Yes to Taiwan's Bid to WHO," has been posted on the free online petitions Web site, GIO officials said.

They said the people of Taiwan had to let their voices be heard by the world regardless of whether the country succeeded in joining the WHO this year. is a  platform for international petitions, with more than 70,000 petition drives in 75 countries currently being conducted on the Web site, the GIO said.

Meanwhile, representatives of major Taiwanese expatriate groups in New York urged the WHO on Wednesday to stop denying Taiwan membership.

Representing the New York chapter of the North American Taiwanese Medical Association, Lai Hung-tien said that while the WHO bid has seen little progress over the past decade, Taiwan had to continue to fight for its right to participate in the WHO.

Wang Ai-lan, a member of a Taiwanese Christian group in North America, invited the people of Taiwan to join a one-letter-per-person campaign and write to WHO member nations to lobby for the country's WHO bid.

The legislature, meanwhile, is expected to pass a resolution backing the government's bid to join the WHO in today's plenary session.

Legislative caucus whips across party lines reached the consensus on a draft resolution at a negotiation meeting yesterday.

The draft says that there is strong public support for Taiwan to join the WHO, citing a survey conducted by Taiwan Thinktank in March in which 94.9 percent of respondents expressed support.

"The letter the president had sent to WHO Director-General Margaret Chan on April 11 asking that the country be allowed to join the health body conforms with public opinion and the fight for basic health rights," the draft said.

Source: Tapei Times

Additional source: AsiaMedia