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Sat, Jun 16, 2001 - Page 2 News List

Dying newspaper headed battle for press freedom

DISSENT The impending demise of the decades-old `Independence Evening Post' would eliminate one of the few publications bold enough to challenge the KMT's media control

By Lin Mei-chun  /  STAFF REPORTER

For many democracy activists in Taiwan, the Independence Evening Post (自立晚報) is not just a newspaper, it's also a piece of history, a chronicle of the battles they fought against a authoritarian KMT regime.

Founded in 1947, the Post was the first paper in the country to advocate "independence from political parties" during a time when Taiwan was ruled by martial law and press freedom was only a dream.

During its 54-year history, the paper stood out from its counterparts by challenging the KMT's dominance and lending support to dissidents and non-KMT politicians alike.

In 1977, when former DPP chairman Hsu Hsin-liang (許信良) was running for election as Chungli County commissioner, the Post was the only newspaper to impartially report riots triggered by KMT vote-rigging. They were the largest riots Taiwan had ever seen.

Though elected as a county magistrate, Hsu was removed from office for allegedly taking part in an illegal protest.

In 1979, after traveling to the US and commenting on the repressive handling of a peaceful human rights protest which came to be known as the Kaohsiung Incident, Hsu was blacklisted by the KMT regime.

Six years later Hsu was prevented from entering Taiwan for a second time. The Post was the only media organization to report the event.

In 1987, the Post again flouted governmental rules by sending two of its reporters -- Hsu Lu (徐璐), now vice president of Chinese Television System, and Lee Yuan-te (李永得), currently president of the Public Television Service -- to report from Beijing. The two were grounded by the government for a year after returning.

Besides having recorded the significant events in Taiwan's political transformation, the Post also acted as a cradle to nurture many prominent journalists. Several of them serve in vital posts in the Chen administration, including the deputy secretary general of the National Security Council and former publisher of the Taipei Times, Antonio Chiang (江春男), and Government Information Office Director Su Tzen-ping (蘇正平).

In 1988, the Post group founded a morning newspaper one year after restrictions on the press were lifted.

But the frequent changing of management over the last decade seems to have hastened the publication's demise.

After a financial crisis in 1995, the paper was taken over by KMT Taipei City Councilor Chen Cheng-chung (陳政忠), who led the paper down a pro-KMT path.

After considerable struggle, the morning newspaper was shut down in 1999.

In October, Wang Shih-chien (王世堅), a DPP city councilor in Taipei, took over management of the newspaper. The return to DPP favor, however, appears to have done nothing to improve its fortunes.

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