Fri, Mar 22, 2002 - Page 1 News List

Reporter for `Next' faces prosecution

PRESS FREEDOM While prosecutors say that reporter Hsieh Zhong-liang breached national security, the Committee to Protect Journalists denounced the government's raid on the magazine as `censorship'


Representatives of the Taiwan High Court Prosecutors' Office yesterday charged Next reporter Hsieh Zhong-liang (謝忠良) with breaching national security for his report on two secret funds at the National Security Bureau, worth more than NT$3.5 billion.

Next in turn said it would sue the government over a raid on the magazine's offices Wednesday and the seizure of 160,000 copies of its latest edition.

Despite the government's action, Next has resumed the publication and distribution of its latest edition.

Hsieh was yesterday banned from leaving the country. Prosecutors plan to question the reporter next week.

Prosecutors on Wednesday searched Hsieh's home and took a reporter's notebook and other materials from his office.

He could not be reached for comment yesterday.

In justifying its search, the Taiwan High Court Prosecutors' Office said the magazine had violated Article 109 of the Criminal Code, which outlaws the disclosure of information regarding ROC national security.

Prosecutors said they had received a complaint from the National Security Bureau.

Despite the government's action, the magazine managed to get 16,000 copies of its latest edition to newsstands Wednesday evening. The edition was sold out within 24 hours.

The magazine plans another run of 160,000 copies, which includes five additional pages of details on the government's raid, according to a Next employee, who declined to be identified.

Pei Wei (裴偉), executive editor of Next, said the magazine's lawyers were preparing to file a lawsuit against the Taiwan High Court Prosecutors' Office over the raids.

When asked whether prosecutors would continue seizing copies of Next, officials had little to say.

Chen Uen-li (陳文禮), the prosecutor in charge of investigating the case, said "technical problems" prevented investigators from seizing all the copies of Next on Wednesday. Chen said prosecutors will deal with the magazine according to the law, failing to elaborate further.

Meanwhile yesterday, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) denounced the raid on Next, saying national security concerns shouldn't be used as a pretext to censor reporting.

"The CPJ is deeply concerned about the government's apparent attempt to censor Taiwan Next," the group said in a statement to President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

"We respectfully ask your Excellency to guarantee that your administration will not use national security concerns as a pretext to censor reporting. CPJ considers this an important press freedom issue that has serious implications for the health of Taiwan's democracy," the statement said.

The Presidential Office declined to comment yesterday on the group's statement.

In related news, the Control Yuan called off a press conference it had scheduled, to release a report on its investigation into Liu Kuan-chun (劉冠軍), the ex-cashier at the National Security Bureau who allegedly embezzled NT$192 million in funds.

"Since the report refers to national security matters, it won't be made public," a Control Yuan statement said.

The allegations surrounding Liu were also the subject of Next's report.

Control Yuan members, who have been investigating the case since July 2000, declined to say why their report could not be released now.

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