Mon, Mar 25, 2002 - Page 3 News List

Liu case controversy: Critics say media raids jeopardize press freedom

SECRET NSB ACCOUNTS Academics and rights activists say the hard line on the publication of state secrets is a repeat of what the nation suffered under the former KMT regime

By Tsai Ting-i  /  STAFF REPORTER

Scholars and human-rights activists said yesterday that charges against the China Times and Next magazine for breaching national security violate freedom of the press.

The critics charge that the response to the publication of stories on two secret funds at the National Security Bureau (NSB) ironically repeats what the nation suffered under KMT rule in the 1970s and 1980s.

But they emphasized that Taiwan's priority should be passing new laws to regulate the nation's secret activities.

The charges against the publications have sparked debate among scholars, government officials and media workers over whether national-security concerns can be used as a pretext to censor the media.

The Taiwan Radical Quarterly in Social Studies, the Association of Taiwan Journalists and the Taiwan Association for Human Rights jointly held a press conference yesterday to find a way to resolve the conflict between national security and freedom of the press.

Scholars who experienced martial law before 1989 commented that it's ironic for them to see DPP politicians -- some of whom were charged and jailed by the KMT government for their publications -- treating the media in the same way they once resented.

"Magazines published by DPP politicians enlightened me, but these politicians now use the same pretext to ban other publications from printing. Is this really about Taiwan's national security or just something unpresentable?" said Chen Hsin-hsing (陳信行), a sociology professor at Shih-Hsin University.

DPP legislators, however, emphasized that Taiwan's stability should outweigh other concerns.

"Those special agents who risk their lives for the country should be our priority," DPP lawmaker Lin Cho-shui (林濁水) said.

Another DPP official echoed Lin's statement.

"We didn't need to worry about how to implement our platforms when we were an opposition party; but ... our priority is society's stability," said Wang Tuoh (王拓), chief executive of the DPP legislative caucus.

"But I am opposed to the prosecutors' search of the magazine," he added.

Human-rights activists said that prosecutors' actions against the media organizations are in violation of UN protocol.

"President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) had promised to sign the [UN's] international human rights declaration, but what Minister of Justice Chen Ding-nan (陳定南) said totally broke that declaration," said Lin Feng-jeng (林峰正), head of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights.

"Based on Article 19 of the declaration, every individual has the right to say what he or she wants to say, as well as to communicate with others by whatever media he or she chooses," Lin added.

Chen Ding-nan defended the prosecutors' search of Next, saying, "There should be certain limits on press freedom. News reports should not break the law and newspaper offices should not be exempt from searches."

Reporters, meanwhile, questioned the two media organizations' ethics.

"Media should deal with the issue [of national security] very carefully. Reviewing the case, is it appropriate to say `Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) embezzled [NT]$3.5 billion' on the cover?" reporter Lu Shih-xiang (盧世祥) asked of Next's headline.

"Is it appropriate for news organizations to use stolen materials?" he said.

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