Al Jazeera journalist takes tumble in Taiwan

Correspondent Adrian Brown tripped over while following country’s presidential frontrunner, making national news.

I took a tumble the other day while trying to interview the woman on course to become Taiwan’s next president.

Taiwan Election

Tsai Ing-wen had just addressed a small gathering of her supporters in Nantou, a pleasant town in the centre of the island republic.

Although she was surrounded by bodyguards and a posse of local camera crews, I somehow managed to squeeze or push myself close enough to ask a question.

“Why are you so confident of victory,” I blurted.

What happened next has been replayed repeatedly on local television.

It shows a Western reporter in smart jacket and jeans tripping on something and falling to his knees, and outstretched hands helping break the fall. Security guards help him to his feet. There are audible gasps.

The presidential candidate stopped in her tracks and walked towards the shambolic reporter, who had now regained some of his poise.

WATCH: A new era in Taiwan-China relations?

“Are you OK? You deserve a question after that,” said the lady who by Sunday night could be the first female president in an ethnic Chinese society

I have the attention of Tsai Ing Wen and quickly think of a question. She has a busy schedule that doesn’t include impromptu interviews with pesky foreign reporters. By now the press scrum around us is pressing more tightly. Her security detail is getting nervous.

“Politics in this country has been dominated by men for so long,” I begin. “What difference will it make if you become president?” 

Are you okay? You deserve a question after that.

Tsai Ing Wen, Taiwan presidential candidate

Tsai smiles demurely. “Well at least we get to prove that this is a place where we stress and then we achieve gender equality.”

She’s about to move off, but I have a secondary question.

“And… when it comes to China, how would you deal with President Xi Jinping?

She seems prepared for this one.

“It’s a matter of communication, communication and communication,” she replies.

With that she turns away and resumes her short walk to her waiting motorcade. I have my snatched soundbite.The culmination of six months of endless emails and calls to her office seeking an interview.

As I wipe away the smears of mud on my trousers I become aware that the cameras are now trained on someone else. The questions are shrill and quickfire.

“What did you ask her?” a young female television reporter demands.

“Did she answer your questions properly?” asks another.

By now now it’s become an informal media conference, with at at least half a dozen cameras facing me. Now that the tables have been turned I begin to understand what it must be like when you are suddenly thrust under the media’s spotlight.

Mustering a modicum of composure, I rummage around my brain for a suitable and pithy response.

“There aren’t many would-be heads of state who would have stopped and taken questions in such situations,” I reply. 

“And I am very grateful she did.”

An hour later, my local producer receives a call on her mobile phone. It’s Tsai’s office. An official wants to know if I am OK and recommends I go to hospital for a check-up. I explain that I am fine and thank him for his concern.

The van we are travelling in has a small TV embedded in the control panel.

It’s turned to one of the local 24-hour satellite news channels.

The segment dealing with the final stages of Taiwan’s sixth presidential election campaign has one recurring image. That of the “Fall Over Reporter”, as I am now being referred to.

There are suggestions in another report that I “took a dive” to make Ms Tsai stop and talk to me. Others criticise the fact that she didn’t take questions from the local media.

Later that day her rival, Eric Chu from the nationalist KMT Party, is holding a press conference.

He’s repeating the “communicate, communicate, communicate” quote Tsai gave me. He says it’s proof that her policies are empty. That snatched soundbite is now setting the news agenda in Taiwan.

Fortunately, like everywhere else in the world, it’s all old news by the following morning.

Well, at least I’m making an impression.

Economy key issue as Taiwan heads to polls

Source: Al Jazeera


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