The Role of Independent Media in Strengthening Democratic Resilience in the Indo-Pacific: Opportunities for US-Taiwan Cooperation

November 16, 2021
01:00 pm - 02:30 pm

Watch the event on this page at 1:00 pm EST on November 16.

This event is co-sponsored by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy.

About the Event

Authoritarian powers and anti-democratic trends in recent years have rapidly escalated around the world. Countries are facing democratic backsliding and rising authoritarian influence aimed to dismantle democratic institutions and values. As democracies attempt to combat these growing threats, the role that civil society and non-government organizations play in keeping authoritarian states at bay and stabilizing democracies is more vital than ever.

Taiwan this year ranked as the second-freest country in Asia, and seventh in the world, according to Freedom House’s “Freedom in the World 2021” report. How has Taiwan’s robust civil society helped sustain and defend democracy? Moreover, how does ensuring media freedom, protection of journalists, and the strengthening of civic technology further safeguard democratic procedures and norms? How can NGOs and government institutions collaborate to fend off authoritarian threats?

About the SPEAKERs

Damon Wilson is the president and chief executive officer of the National Endowment for Democracy. Prior to joining NED, Mr. Wilson was the executive vice president of the Atlantic Council, worked at the National Security Council (NSC) as the director for Central, Eastern, and Northern European Affairs from 2004 to 2006, special assistant to the president and senior director for European affairs at the NSC from 2007 to 2009, and as the executive secretary and chief of staff at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

Johanna Kao serves as regional director for Asia for IRI. She brings more than 20 years of experience in international political development, nonprofit management and citizen empowerment to this role, and has lived and worked in the Asia region most of her life. The Asia division includes a diverse range of countries and political systems, ranging from Pakistan to the Philippines and Mongolia to Indonesia.

Sarah Cook is the research director for China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan at Freedom House. She directs the China Media Bulletin, a monthly digest in English and Chinese providing news and analysis on media freedom developments related to China.  Cook is also the author of several Asian country reports for Freedom House’s annual publications, as well as four special reports about China.

Chihhao Yu is co-director of the Information Operations Research Group (IORG) where he works to strengthen open and collaborative grassroots communities. He is a contributor to and a member of, and also serves as Director at the Taiwan Pàng-phuānn Association of Education.

Sih-Cheng (Sean) Du joined the Taiwan Tongzhi (LGBTQ+) Hotline Association in 2002 as a volunteer and has since been actively involved in the work on gender education and HIV prevention. He became the Director of Policy Advocacy of Hotline in 2011 and the Secretary General in 2021. His work includes gay men’s sexual health, workplace equality and international affairs. He was also a key member in the Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan, a board member of Persons with HIV/AIDS Rights Advocacy Association of Taiwan, Taiwan Equality Campaign, and a member of the Taipei City Committee of Gender Equality.

Nick Benequista is the senior director for the Center for International Media Assistance. Nick draws from his extensive experience in international media development, applied research, democracy support, and journalism. He has been a foreign correspondent in three countries, including as Mexico City bureau chief for Bloomberg News. He has overseen policy oriented research projects around the globe with the UK’s Institute of Development Studies and Canada’s International Development Research Centre and has been an advisor and consultant to multilateral organizations such as International IDEA and UNESCO.

Ketty W. Chen is the vice president of the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy (TFD). She is responsible for overseeing international affairs and general administration at the TFD. Dr. Chen’s writing has appeared in Nikkei Asian Review, China File and the Prospect Journal. Dr. Chen has been referenced in publications and international media outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, the Associated Press, Al Jazeera, LA Times, New York Times, Financial Times, BBC, and Le Monde. Her contributed chapters appeared in “Taiwan’s Social Movements Under Ma Ying-jeou” and “Cities Unsilenced”. Dr. Chen’s most recent work was published in “Taiwan in Dynamic Transition: Nation Building and Democratization” in 2020.

Header image adapted from photo by bangdoll under CC BY-SA 2.0 license.