Why is Taiwan better than China

Reports on ChinaAlternative headquarters in Taiwan

Walid Berrazeg joins in via Skype from Taipei. The 32-year-old photographer of Algerian-French origin has lived in Taiwan since the end of 2019. Until then he worked in Hong Kong - there he held the demonstrations of the democracy movement. He was not only impressed by how well organized they were. "At the end of every demo, we photographed all of us. And people would always come up to us to thank us. That was really - impressive. We then said that we would just do our job. But They said: Our situation can only change through your work. And then they provided us with food and beer. That was really great. "

The qualified marketing expert laughs as he often does when he talks about his experiences. Although Berrazeg sold reportage photos from Hong Kong, it was not enough for a decent life in the expensive city. In addition, he was officially only traveling there as a tourist and feared reprisals.

Taiwan benefits from China's isolation

The People's Republic of China has not been issuing journalist visas since March 2020, and several correspondents have been expelled. Taiwan has benefited from this, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. A total of 34 foreign journalists were newly accredited there last year, also because some media increased their staff. Most are from the USA, followed by the French. Walid Berrazeg is one of them.

(imago / Xinhua / Cui Bowen) Beijing's Marketing
The Chinese government is increasingly trying to influence how the country is reported. The correspondents of other media are called in again and again - and apologies are expected in the Corona crisis.

The cost of living in Taiwan is low and the working environment is better than in many other countries, he says: "You only have advantages here. That is, a democratic government that tries to promote transparent journalism. And that's perfect. If I compare it with my colleagues in France, in Algeria and even with those in the US, when we look at recent events, I have to say: we have a government here that really helps us. There are no obstacles. "

"There is more and more interest in Taiwan"

Nevertheless, the beginning was difficult, according to the press photographer. The demand for topics from Taiwan was initially low, he had no contacts. However, that changed quickly. "I mainly work with the Hans Lucas agency in France. They work with the French press agency and the Reuters agency. And also with other agencies in Europe such as Imago in Germany. And then I have smaller jobs. That's how I plan to do it recently worked with the French magazine Le Point. "

Le Point bought a story from him about the saber rattling of the Chinese in the South China Sea. A topic that has come more into the public eye due to the conflict with the USA. He also creates websites to finance his living and portrays Taiwanese executives. He doesn't know how long he will stay, but Walid is certain that the time in Taiwan will be beneficial for his career: "There is more and more interest in Taiwan. At the same time, there are not as many international media outlets as in Japan or China . "

(imago-images / Keith Tsuji) Honkong: End of freedom of the press
China passed a controversial national security law in Hong Kong. Critics see the freedom rights in Hong Kong endangered and warn against a restriction of the freedom of the press.

No "deep critical press culture - until now"

A total of 90 foreign journalists are registered in Taiwan. An increase of 37 percentage points from 2019 to 2020. Carina Rother's story is a completely different one. The Regensburg native studied Sinology on the island and was employed by the public broadcaster Radio Taiwan International for several years. That secured her livelihood, but she was not satisfied there: "The structures are simply too old. It is underfunded and you can only develop to a limited extent as a foreign journalist there."

The 31-year-old resigned and now works as a freelancer for some German radio stations. The island was not only made more aware of the German media by Corona, but also the political developments. Nevertheless, she is hoping for even greater demand. The sinologist wants to position herself broadly: "I will do translations, I will write, I will do documentaries. So you have to diversify as a foreign journalist here."

The media have every freedom in Taiwan, says Carina Rother. Nevertheless, for historical reasons, some are still, as she calls it, "government-obsessed" and the others, above all, lust for sensation. Taiwan is still a young democracy. "There just hasn't been this deep, critical, investigative press culture until now. But you can also see that there are younger generations from the journalism schools who are trying to do something different." But of course that doesn't happen overnight.