Sat, Jul 25, 2015 - Page 1 News List

Curriculum Protests: Authorities release incursion reporters

PRESSING CHARGES:Minister of Education Wu Se-hwa said the ministry will withdraw the charges against the three reporters only after determining that they did not participate in breaking into the ministry complex

By Abraham Gerber and Jason Pan  /  Staff reporters

Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister paper) photojournalist Liao Chen-huei holds up his reporter’s identification card as he steps out of a police vehicle at the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office early yesterday morning.

Photo: CNA

Three journalists arrested while covering the storming of Ministry of Education building late on Thursday night and early yesterday morning were released without bail by prosecutors after they insisted on pleading not guilty and refused to accept paying NT$10,000 bail earlier yesterday.

The three reporters arrested are Liao Chen-hui (廖振輝) — a Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) photographer, Sung Hsiao-hai (宋小海) of news Web site Coolloud.org.tw (苦勞網) and Lin Yu-yu (林雨佑), a freelance journalist.

All three were inside the ministry building when the students were subdued and arrested.

“It was the darkest day of my 19 years of working as a journalist,” Liao said after walking out of the Taipei Prosecutors’ Office last night. “If a government can turn a journalist into a criminal by simply saying: ‘We didn’t invite you to cover the news,’ which media organization would dare to monitor the government’s actions?”

Lin posted a video of police officers grappling for his camera and stating that the reporters had illegally entered the building and did not have any authority to engage in news gathering.

Police reinforcements prevented other members of the media from entering the ministry after news of the break-in emerged.

Despite criticism from the public, as well as from journalist and human rights groups, the ministry insisted on pressing charges against the three journalists.

“The Ministry of Education will withdraw the charges against the three reporters arrested late on Thursday only after determining that they did not participate in breaking into the ministry complex,” Minister of Education Wu Se-hwa (吳思華) said yesterday.

“We hope that the journalists were not a part of this incident,” said Wu, who added that they should be accorded full protection if they were purely engaged in news gathering.

He said that there was a possibility that the reporters had “led” the students into the complex, which would mean that they “participated” in the break-in rather than “reporting on it.”

Ministry of Education Secretary-General Wang Chun-chuan (王俊傑) said all three of the reporters admitted to climbing over the barbed-wire barricades around the ministry building, adding that security camera footage would be analyzed to determine their exact roles.

Students late on Thursday clambered over the barricades and broke into the ministry building, temporarily occupying Wu’s office.

Wang said the decision to arrest the reporters was made by the on-site police commanding officer, while prosecutors would determine whether or not to charge them based on the available evidence.

The ministry would “cooperate” with the decisions of the police and the prosecutors’ office, he said.

Zhongzheng First Police Precinct Deputy Police Chief Lee Chuan-che (李權哲) earlier stated that the reporters had been arrested because the ministry had decided to press charges.

Bailiffs transferred 22 of the 33 individuals arrested for storming the ministry building to the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office yesterday afternoon for further questioning.

All of those arrested were first taken to the headquarters of Taipei’s special police division for public security in the Songshan District (松山), where many remained yesterday afternoon.

At a separate setting yesterday, human rights lawyer Tseng Wei-kai (曾威凱) said the decision to arrest the journalists was an abuse of power by a government agency and that it infringed upon the right of the media to report the news.

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