Thu, Dec 15, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Broadcasters re-evaluate crime-coverage methods

WAY FORWARD After irresponsible reporting put the life of a kidnapping victim in jeopardy last month, media heads met yesterday to discuss ways to solve problems

By Jean Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Broadcasting Development Fund held a conference yesterday to re-evaluate the media's methods of covering kidnap cases, hoping to reach a consensus with police agencies about dealing with real-time information at crime scenes.

Connie Lin (林育卉), director of the fund, said that the media must respect the fact that hostage safety is the priority. Media interference at crime scenes jeopardizes the safety of victims, the police and reporters, she said.

Instead, the media should aid the police in broadcasting footage of family members of criminals who are pleading for them to give themselves up, Lin added.

Lin Yuan-cheng (林淵城), a section chief at the Criminal Investigation Bureau, said that during the case of Tsai Ming-fu (蔡明福), who was kidnapped by Lin Ming-hua (林明樺) and his gang last month, the media's interference at the crime scene caused a lot of problems.

Lin said that the media had revealed information regarding the capture of two of the four kidnappers before knowing whether the hostage was safe or not.

The two remaining kidnappers who were still holding the hostage saw the television broadcasts and were angered, thereby putting the hostage and the police in mortal danger, Lin said.

Lin said that two media trucks were already at the crime scene in Tamsui when he arrived. He said that he had absolutely no idea how they had obtained the information.

The side-view mirrors on Lin's vehicle were knocked off as reporters stampeded toward the crime scene.

Paul Tsai (蔡滄波), deputy manager of the news gathering center at FTV, said that information control at police agencies should be regulated, too.

Local police often reveal information without consulting the central police authorities, Tsai said.

Media representative Chien Yu-yen (簡余晏) said that reporters are often pressured by their superiors to get exclusives in order to help their station obtain higher ratings.

Rumors, Chien said, are at times mistakenly reported by the media during the rush for the best and fastest story.

A protocol should be signed by all the nation's media organizations to help improve the situation, Chien said. But there must also be changes within news circles -- reporters must begin to trust each other and the police should establish a systematic way of releasing news, she added.

Lee Yung-ching (李湧清), a professor at the Central Police University, said that it would be ideal if the police had a spokesperson who released information to the press.

"Information revealed by one local police officer is often quoted as `the police said,' giving the impression it came from the central police authority," Lee said.

Last week the National Police Agency and the Government Information Office met at a special forum to draft regulations regar-ding media coverage at crime scenes, hoping to improve safety for reporters as well as members of the police force.

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