President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) said yesterday that the nation's free-wheeling media must not try to replace the sense of right and wrong with their political positions.
Chen made the remarks in reply to a reader who had complained in a letter to the president's electronic newspaper that the China Times, a Chinese-language daily, has been carrying depressing news about Taiwan.
"Is the China Times sick? Or is it Taiwan society that is sick? How come the daily carries only depressing news about Taiwan while the few positive stories in it are all about China?" wrote the reader, identified as "Hsiao Yu."
The president recalled that Yu Chi-chung (余紀忠), the newspaper's founder, was a man of integrity who insisted on reporting facts and facts only.
He said that this principle has been "drowned" in Taiwan's fiercely commercial media environment.
While safeguarding freedom of the press is the government's duty, media workers should do their best to improve the quality of their work and to enhance professionalism, the president said.
He said some media outlets, rather than showing their professionalism, have been endlessly seeking to make exaggerated and sensational reports, which has only damaged their own credibility as well hurting the nation's social identity.
He advised members of the media not to use freedom of the press as an excuse in failing to deliver quality news, reminding them that "the greater your power, the greater your responsibility."
Like politicians, he said, journalists are being watched by the people.
"If you lose your readership or audience, you'll be forced out of the market," he said.