The media was born to act as a check and balance on the government. This means frequent hostility between a government and the media. The Taiwan High Court last week sentenced former Power News (
It was true that Hung obtained classified documents from his friends in the military and wrote about it. His punishment, based on the Statute for Punishment of Betrayal of Military Secrets (
China is an authoritarian state and the scope of its military secrets could include almost anything -- from the health condition of state leaders to news about natural disasters to SARS cases. Like all other dictatorships in history, the breadth and depth of authoritarianism is proportionate to the scope of state secrets. The more dictatorial a government, the more state secrets it has. Of course, these secrets are defined by dictators or the ruling clique, not by the will of the public. Control over the power to define state secrets and the formulation of laws to punish people who leak such secrets is a characteristic of authoritarianism.
In a democratic country, there are fewer state secrets. The definition of "state secrets" in democratic countries is not legitimate unless approved by their legislatures. State secrets cannot be defined by the whims of government agencies, especially not military or intelligence agencies. How can we talk about human rights if such arbitrary definitions incriminate people at every turn?
Press freedoms cannot be without limit or else there would be anarchy. However, Taiwan's most potent weapon in its fight against Beijing is not the armed forces or weapons, but abstract concepts such as freedom and democracy. Freedom of speech is what China fears.
The Control Yuan has said in an investigation report that many military defectors have leaked secrets to Beijing and that China's satellite technology has exposed the nation's military facilities like so many naked bodies. This nation relies on the US for security and what links Taiwan to the US is the shared values of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
The malicious leaking of state secrets, which harms national security, should certainly be punished. But the premise for such punishment is that the definition of state secrets must be regulated by law. It should not be unilaterally determined by the military.
A new State Secrets Law (