Fri, Jul 16, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Journalists lobby for protection of free press

By Cody Yiu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Presidential Office Secretary-General Su Tseng-chang discusses constitutional reform with the Association of Taiwan Journalists in Taipei yesterday.

PHOTO: CHANG CHIA-MING, TAIPEI TIMES

The Association of Taiwan Journ-alists yesterday continued its campaign to introduce constitutional protection for press freedom during a visit by Presidential Office Secretary-General Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌).

"The association has a preliminary proposal that an article covering freedom of the press be included in the revised Constitution's chapter on human rights," association president Tony Liu (呂東熹) said.

"`Freedom of the press' includes the people's freedom to express opinions as well as the right to gain access to government documents," he said.

Su visited the association yesterday as part of his preparatory work for the revision of the Constitution, a task assigned to him by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

Liu said freedom of the press is frequently curbed by political and economic factors.

"On the surface, it seems like the press enjoys a great deal of freedom. However, in its inner workings much of this freedom is affected by power struggles resulting from external influences," Liu said.

influences

Chiu Yi-sung (邱奕嵩), the editor-in-chief of Media Watch magazine, urged that political influences be removed from the press.

"The government owns `official' shares in the media and feels it has the right to appoint senior managers. It should at least set up a selection committee made up of professionals and other experienced people which nominates suitable candidates," Chiu said.

The association is working on a draft article covering freedom of the press which it hopes can be added to the Constitution.

"On Journalists' Day on Sept. 1, the association will present the text for an article on freedom of the press ... We would like to see the phrase `freedom of the press' clearly stated in the [Constitution]; we are doing our utmost to fight for the right of access to information on behalf of the people," said Lin Chieh-yu (林芥佑), an executive member of the association and a reporter at the Taipei Times.

Lin also said that Article 11 of the Constitution protects freedom of speech, publication and religion, but not freedom of the press.

"In most democratic countries, constitutions contain an article for freedom of speech, such as the First Amendment of the US Constitution, but few have mentioned the freedom of the press," Lin said.

promise

The association said that it would watch Chen to see if he delivers on a promise he made that the Constitution would include such a provision.

Responding to the association's concerns, Su said that Taiwan could become the first Asian country to include freedom of the press in its Constitution.

"The [political] parties have to work together on this. Government documents should be available on the principle of public accessibility," Su said.

"Although [the environment for] freedom of the press in Taiwan is not ideal at the moment, we hope that we can become the first nation in Asia to include a provision covering freedom of the press in our Constitution," he said.

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