Sun, Sep 24, 2006 - Page 8 News List

The media should report the facts

By Lin Cho-shui 林濁水

Scuffles between demonstrators from opposing camps are regrettable, yet they occur all over the world. It is even more regrettable to see demonstrators attacking the media, although this too is not unknown elsewhere.

The media has the freedom to say what it wants, and therefore has the right to criticize a crowd of demonstrators. Any crowd of demonstrators has a duty to behave itself. It should not attack any opposing demonstration, nor should it assault the media. When civic conflict occurs, the media is charged with the responsibility to report it. Based on this foundation, the media should enjoy special protection.

However, in the stand-off between supporters of President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman Shih Ming-teh (施明德), too many media outlets have given up any semblance of objectivity and sided with one or other of the two camps. These media outlets have provided completely unbalanced reporting and have "reorganized" any facts that contradict their biased viewpoint.

Prior to last Saturday, I urged both camps to calm down and stressed that the allegations of corruption against the first family fully legitimized the appeals of the anti-Chen campaign. However, the insult to the "Republic of Taiwan" perpetrated on one of the first days of the sit-in and the refusal to bring Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to account for pocketing his special monthly mayoral allowance also fully legitimized those who opposed Shih.

It is very unfortunate that these two legitimate causes have clashed head-on. I therefore urge the DPP and Shih to stop mobilizing their supporters.

At noon last Friday, I was surprised to see a TV news broadcast which reported I had said the anti-Chen demonstrators have a legitimate cause, while a newspaper article reported that I had said the DPP should refrain from mobilizing supporters.

Both reports were highly selective and taken completely out of context. The TV report seemed to imply that I had given my unreserved support to the anti-Chen campaign, while the newspaper report implied that I had rejected the legitimacy of those opposing Shih. This was completely contrary to my original intentions.

Not only do some media outlets lie by omission, they blatantly fabricate facts. They are no longer media outlets, but have become cheerleaders and protest participants of the worst kind.

The physical attack on the media that occurred last Saturday was in essence a fight between two opposing crowds. One side fabricating fact, the other side resorting to violence. It was a clash between the anti and pro-Chen forces, and not a matter of one side or the other beating up on the media.

However, I do not mean to say that the reporters who were beaten were fabricating facts; most reporters do attempt to do their job diligently. The fabrications are generally made by editorial departments and media managers. Their abominable behavior has turned their staff into scapegoats.

Following the media reports on my call for both sides to calm down, the staff in my office received both supportive and abusive phone calls, but whether supportive or abusive, each call was based on a misunderstanding. Being verbally abused by the people in one's own political camp is very distressing, but this has happened constantly since I became a politician.

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