Fri, Jul 02, 2004 - Page 3 News List

`Free press' bound for Constitution

By Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday pledged to embrace the issue of media reform as part of his constitutional reform project, saying that the nation's new constitution should include a provision protecting the freedom of the press.

"The government exists to serve the people, and it also exists to protect the freedom of the press 100 percent," Chen said when receiving foreign guests at a celebration for the 80th anniversary of the Central News Agency (CNA).

"I hope that the new constitution ... will include an article defending the absolute freedom of the press," he said.

The president made the statement at the Presidential Office when meeting with a group of journalists from international news agencies.

Chen told the guests that CNA's reorganization from its role as a KMT mouthpiece and propaganda machine into a state-run news agency beginning eight years ago symbolized the significant progress of democracy in Taiwan, and highlighted CNA's successful cooperation with international news agencies. Such cooperation showed that the international community approved of the country's efforts to defend the freedom of the press, Chen said.

The president's remarks were a reaction to the Association of Taiwan Journalists (ATJ), which had formally proposed last Friday that the new constitution should have a chapter or amendment embracing the freedoms of speech and the press.

Presidential Office Secretary-General Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) responded to the ATJ proposal during a tea party with reporters, saying that the constitutional reform task force, which Su heads, will incorporate the media reform issue into its agenda.

"We will sincerely discuss the media reform issue based on your idea of including a section on journalistic responsibilities and a chapter or article on freedom of the press, and I promise that it will become a part of Taiwan's new constitution," Su said.

ATJ president Tony Lu (呂東熹) welcomed the president's remarks, saying that the ATJ will consult with experts and scholars to create a draft version of the proposed article.

"We hope that the chapter will refer specifically to the creation of an independent National Communication Commission [NCC], which will not be subject to the control of any political party," Lu said.

"And this chapter in the Constitution should also cover the disclosure of government-held information and official secrets, as well as regulate the procedures that the news media can receive legal protection when exercising their right to publish," Lu said.

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