Taiwan opened with great fanfare a representative office in the breakaway state of Somaliland on Aug. 17, highlighting the alleged shared beliefs existing between two de facto sovereign territories that are denied widespread international recognition.
President Tsai Ing-wen hailed the announcement as “an important milestone” for their bilateral partnership in a Tweet the following day, stressing that Taiwan and Somaliland are “bound together by our shared values of freedom, democracy, justice and the rule of law, ideals that will guide our future cooperation.”
Most people did not notice an important omission in the president’s speech though: press freedom. Why? All Taiwan people believe that communication and expression through various media, including printed and electronic media, should be exercised freely.
然而，索馬利蘭當局並不認同新聞自由。索馬利亞全國新聞工作者聯盟(National Union of Somali Journalists)指出，當地警察在六月時突然關閉位在首都哈爾格薩(Hargeisa)的兩家大型新聞台。
Well, Somaliland authorities do not think that way, according to the National Union of Somali Journalists, amid reports that local police closed two major television stations in the capital Hargeisa in late June.
法國國際廣播電台(RFI)曾在節目中引述索馬利蘭資訊部部長蘇萊曼·優素福·阿里(Suleiman Yusuf Ali) 是如何回應當局關閉環球電視(Universal TV)的：「環球電視(Universal TV)未撥放總統繆斯·比希 (Muse Bihi)在演講中提及索馬利蘭從英國獨立的片段。」
French public radio RFI quoted Somaliland Minister of Information Suleiman Yusuf Ali for the alleged reason why one of the stations, Universal TV, was suddenly shut down: It did not broadcast Somaliland President Muse Bihi’s address to mark the independence of the country from Britain.
以上事件皆凸顯索馬利蘭政府對該國媒體的嚴格控制。今年年初，無國界記者(Reporters Without Borders)譴責索馬利蘭持續拘留記者的惡行，這位記者在5月24日記者會上提問了令衛生部長不堪的問題而遭逮捕。無國界記者也呼籲索馬利蘭當局立即釋放記者，並且尊重新聞自由。
These incidents highlight the government’s tight control over the Somaliland media landscape. Earlier this year, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) also condemned the continuing detention of a journalist who was arrested on May 24 after asking an embarrassing question at a press conference and urged the Somaliland authorities to free him at once and to respect the freedom to inform.
Regretfully, the ruling party Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), who fought tooth and nail for Taiwan press freedom, has turned a blind eye again to the actions of a foreign government in its search for international recognition and short-term political gains at the national level.
Despite the government claims, the “shared beliefs” between Somaliland and Taiwan are for sure largely invisible as the Somaliland government imposes strict censorship on news media, especially when it comes to its territorial disputes with the neighboring Somali state Puntland.
Such short-sighted political vision, also called “political myopia,” highlights a lack of discernment and imagination among Taiwan political leaders that usually paves the way for “grand prophetic vision” to eventually become delusion.
We can expect that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will soon announce a series of economic incentives for our new diplomatic partner to help overcome endemic poverty and famine, before announcing a presidential visit that will further cement bilateral ties.
The question is not whether Somaliland needs and deserves Taiwan help though; we all agree that Taiwan can help and Taiwan is helping. But Taiwan authorities should first acknowledge that long-lasting friendships are the hallmark of successful diplomatic and economic ties, not the other way around.
The risk is that pushing red envelopes for the sake of diplomatic gains with a questionable government could undermine rather than reinforce Taiwan’s moral argument in its diplomatic tug-of-war with China in which each side tries to woo the other’s allies with various incentives.
To this end, Taiwan should think twice before turning a blind eye to Somaliland’s media crackdown, especially as our government is extending its support to Hong Kong people in their rightful fight for freedom and democracy.