Sun, Nov 23, 2003 - Page 3 News List

VCD controversy a `revolutionary event'

`SPECIAL REPORT' The uproar generated by the release of the VCDs has accentuated the chaos in Taiwan's politics and the lack of variety in the media, observers say

By Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The controversy over the Special Report VCDs could be regarded as a revolutionary event in Taiwan's media. Following through on this revolution will require concrete support from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), according to local political analysts.

"Taiwan's media lacks variety of opinion. The tendency is for overwhelming support for one position or another. This situation has been the driving force behind the creation of the Special Report VCD by people outside the media establishment," said senior political columnist Hu Wen-huei (胡文輝).

"Although the release of Special Report has had legal consequences for the publisher related to the alleged violation of privacy rights and slander, the public's response and their support for this publication should be viewed in a positive light," Hu said.

"That the release of the VCDs has become such a high-profile event reflects the chaos within the structures of government and within the media. Over the past three years, the opposition has held press conferences attacking every aspect of the government, and most media outlets are controlled by a small number of people whose political views are quite clear, or financial groups who either protect or attack specific political targets," Hu said.

Hu emphasized that legislators' rights to immunity from prosecution has led to irresponsible attacks on all and sundry; at the same time, the media's ability to publicize views has led to indiscriminate attacks, but the right of free speech should not be exclusive to these groups.

"If a legislator can speak his mind, why can't a citizen? If the media can, why can't you or I? There is no reason for this," Hu said.

"Special Report is simply following the example of legislators and the media. While there might be a difference in quality, it is fundamentally the same sort of action. The people controlling the media are all hypocrites, and the `little people' are tearing away their masks. In Europe and the US, where freedom of speech is an accepted right, this kind of conflict happens all the time," Hu said.

Lee Yung-chih (李永熾), a history professor at National Taiwan University, said that the publication of Special Report should have been seen as an indictment of the media in Taiwan, but, because of the furor over the upcoming presidential election, the debate has been used as a weapon in the battle between the pan-blue and pan-green camps.

"The strategy of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the People First Party (PFP) is very simple: They portray the Special Report VCD as a `poisoned letter,' a slur campaign and a `behind-the-scenes policy' on the part of President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), so that people who have not even seen the VCD will `feel' antipathy toward the DPP and disappointment with President Chen," Lee said.

"The DPP should not try to distance itself from this issue. The party should take advantage of the current discourse that surrounds the VCDs and emphasize its role as part of the common people's supervisory role in the media. The DPP should put it in the perspective of Taiwan's sovereignty and a critical attitude toward the media," Lee said.

According to Lee, if the DPP ignores this issue, it will fail to mobilize its power to highlight criticism of the media and become a liability in Chen's election campaign.

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