President Chen Shui-bian (
"We feel distressed over what we saw on TV the other day," Chen said. "The act of violence is not only a suppression of an individual's freedom of speech, but also a deliberate provocation of hatred, confrontation and violence ? I hope such mean and audacious behavior will never happen again."
Chen made the comments yesterday afternoon while attending the inauguration of the Bugle Society, a group established by several former journalists to defend the victims of erroneous media reports.
Chen received a resounding welcome at the ceremony, as audience members blew on the blue bugles distributed by the organizer and chanted "President, jiayou (加油, an expression of encouragement)" and "Taiwan, jiayou."
Commenting on former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman Shih Ming-teh's (施明德) fundraising campaign to oust him, Chen said that when politicians used means outside the system to instigate a revolution aimed at forcing a popularly elected president to resign, it was natural to see violence committed over differing opinions.
"It is complete negation and contempt of the democratic system to trumpet revolution in a democracy," he said. "In a democracy governed by the rule of law, appealing to violence and intimidation is to challenge fundamental human rights and public power."
Chen said his administration fully respects and protects the rights of legal assembly and marches, but it would not tolerate any behavior that breaks the law, disturbs order, causes trouble or provokes incidents.
Looking back at the past six years, Chen said that he saw more hatred than tolerance, more confrontation than trust. Such negative emotions, he said, were the result of the problems the ruling and opposition parties had in coping with the new political situation after the transfer of power.
He criticized the media for letting false allegations dictate their profession. He said his office has received many letters and telephone calls in recent months complaining about the chaotic media situation and urging the government to regulate the media.
"I've always believed that freedom of speech and press freedom must be upheld," he said. "Maybe A-bian [Chen's nickname] was wrong, maybe A-bian was wrong, so I suffer the most."
Although he could not control the smear campaign against him, he said that he could switch off the TV and stop reading newspapers.
"Now I am not affected by them at all. I'm a very happy man," he said. "I don't buy newspapers any more, which saves me a lot of money."
The fourth estate is not entitled to unlimited freedom, Chen said, adding that he expects to see the media exercise self-discipline and self-restraint.
"During the authoritarian regime, the media was controlled by the administration," he said.
"In a democracy, the media must refrain from abusing its power, invading privacy or infringing upon human rights simply for the sake of boosting ratings."