Tue, Apr 20, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Reporters look to shield themselves from angry mobs

By Cody Yiu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Reporters should band together at mass rallies to avoid beatings like the ones they received at the April 10 protest on Ketagalan Boulevard, members of the Association of Taiwan Journalists said yesterday.

"Although there are usually too many live-coverage reporters at these rallies, the overall organization and structure of these reporters is missing," association head Tony Liu (呂東熹) said.

"There are many ways reporters can distinguish themselves from the crowd. For instance, colored armed bands or vests could be distributed to reporters," he said.

Liu was speaking at a seminar yesterday organized by the association and conducted in light of the violent protests on April 10. The demonstration saw several television reporters attacked by angry rally participants.

Speakers at the seminar agreed that organizing on-site reporters might prevent them from being attacked.

Yang Chen-chuan (楊鎮全), a television reporter who was injured at the April 10 rally, said a reporter's judgment is the best protection.

"A reporter should use his own judgment to decide when a situation is getting out of hand and whether he needs to leave the scene," he said.

In chaotic situations, Yang said, it is difficult for reporters to remain calm and avoid making comments that might offend rally participants, adding that the relationship between reporters and protesters must be handled carefully.

"If someone in the crowd has heard you doing live reporting and does not like what you have said in your story, word about your alleged `untruthful' report will start to spread among the crowd. For the rest of the day, your entire crew will get harassed by rally participants," he said.

Yang added that some protesters monitored and even attempted to interfere with his live coverage on April 10.

"Some individuals would stand very close to me and watch every single word I said to the camera. Some even tried to give me directives about what to say in my report," he said.

Journalists said understanding a crowd's psychology is also a means to avoid getting hurt.

"Some demonstrators at the April 10 protest were not pleased with being called `violent participants,' saying the violence was carried out by a few extremists in the crowd," said Chen Hsiang-lan (陳香蘭), a section chief at the Taiwan Daily.

"They also felt that reporters had ignored the general sentiments of the crowd and were being very distant from them," she said.

Chen added that reporters should reflect on why they have been attacked as it might be due to poor diction in their coverage.

"The wording in live coverage should be precise and phrased with concern," she said.

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