No TV networks will be shut down, the president said in response to the latest developments in the TVBS controversy, while a legislator agreed to change his name to a profanity because of a promise he made with regard to the cable station.
President Chen Shui-bian (
However, Chen said that the government has to follow the principle of proportionality, which is embedded in almost every legal system when taking disciplinary action against companies that commit unlawful actions.
PHOTO: WANG MIN-WEI, TAIPEI TIMES
"However, we have to be careful when considering closing a television network. During my presidency, I will never let it happen," Chen said.
He said the government would never close any TV station or newspaper, because Taiwan is a democratic country ruled by law.
The freedom of the press is especially important for Taiwan -- a country just transformed from an authoritarian system into a democratic one, he said.
"I urge all media agencies to disseminate information, in the form of either news or commentary, based on factual events," Chen said.
Echoing the president's pledge that no TV station will be shut down during his tenure, Premier Frank Hsieh (
"We don't have any pre-set policy for the matter, as claimed by some," Hsieh said.
"We'll tackle the matter in accordance with solid evidence, and will continue to enforce media-related laws until the national communications commission [NCC] is established," he said.
Although the job of the Executive Yuan is to enforce the law, Hsieh said that the government will not lightly impose any sanctions on TVBS, as long as the station offers a clear explanation of its shareholder structure and answers the charges of tax evasion as well.
Hsieh made the remark in response to a question asked by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lai Shyh-bao (
Hsieh said that while he has not yet seen the full text of the president's remarks, he believes that Chen is committed to the nation's democratic development, and does not wish to see any media outlet shut down during his term.
The majority of shareholders at TVBS are Hong Kong investors, and Hsieh said it remains debatable whether Hong Kong investors are equal to Chinese investors.
Hsieh said that TVBS has clearly violated the Satellite Broadcasting Law (衛星廣播電視法) by changing the structure of its board of directors without notifying the Government Information Office (GIO), and has subsequently been fined NT$200,000 (US$5,960).
The GIO also requested that the station offer an explanation for the change of its board of directors by Friday.
On a lighter note, responding to Chen's comment, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tsai Chi-fang (
Biao means "bitch" or "whore" in Mandarin, while ge is a term of endearment meaning "brother."
However, the "biao" (婊) on the poster of Tsai's press conference was changed to another "biao" (裱). Tsai explained that the original character carries an improper connotation.
The "biao" (裱) refers to "mount" as in mounting a painting.
Tsai had previously sworn that the public could call him "Biao Chi-fang" if the government failed to shut down TVBS, whose shareholder structure he claimed was illegal. After carefully studying related laws and regulations governing media outlets' shareholder structure, Tsai yesterday said he had made a mistake in his understanding of the matter, but that he nonetheless decided to keep his word and let people refer to him as biao ge.
DPP Legislator Lee Wen-chung (李文忠) yesterday threw his backing behind the president, but said that the GIO should leave the matter to the NCC.
Also, the Northern Taiwan Society yesterday criticized the president for using "political power to constrain judicial rulings."
"We are devoted to steadfastly safeguarding freedom of the press, but the premise is the media's self-discipline," said Chet Yang (楊文嘉), secretary-general of the organization. "Before the truth of the matter is known, we don't think it is appropriate for the president to use a political promise to influence a future legal verdict."
The pan-blue legislative caucuses yesterday also lambasted the administration, with the People First Party (PFP) caucus still threatening to mobilize a million people to take to the street if the government "dared" to annul the operating license of TVBS, as well as appeal to the US government.
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