Sun, Mar 24, 2002 - Page 3 News List

`Next' raid triggers a strong reaction from US journalists

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORT IN WASHINGTON

Members of the US media lectured Taiwan's authorities on freedom of the press Friday as the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists sent President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) a protest note accusing his government of imposing censorship on the news media in Wednesday's raid on the offices of Next magazine.

As word of the raid spread in Washington in the wake of an editorial in the Wall Street Journal and a news article in The New York Times, reaction was muted due to a two-week congressional spring vacation break.

The House finished its business Thursday and most members have left town for the spring break, while the Senate was rushing to finish its work before the weekend.

A statement issued by the State Department did not directly criticize the raid, but said the department "will be following developments closely."

"We have seen reports of the March 20 raid by Taiwan pro-secutors on the offices of Next magazine," the department said.

"The United States places great importance on freedom of the press, a key democratic principle. We understand that the Taiwan government and its people also place great importance on press freedom, and we hope this will continue to be guaranteed in Taiwan," the department said.

It is not known whether the department or the American Institute on Taiwan (AIT) has been in touch with the Chen administration to discuss the issue of the raid.

A State Department spokesman refused to comment on whether the US or AIT has contacted Taipei or plans to do so.

A spokesman for the Taipei Economic and Trade Relations Office in Washington said that the AIT has not been in touch with the office.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, in a long letter to Chen, condemned the raid and urged Chen not to use national security concerns "as a pretext to censor reporting."

"As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of our colleagues worldwide, CPJ is deeply concerned about the government's apparent attempt to censor ... Next.

"CPJ considers this an important press freedom issue that has serious implications for the health of Taiwanese democracy," the letter, signed by Executive Director Ann Cooper, said.

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