Sat, Jan 27, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Former leaders highlight value of free press, speech

By Jewel Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Visiting former presidents from South Korea, El Salvador, Mongolia, South Africa and Poland yesterday unanimously underscored the value of protecting freedom of the press and speech.

The five agreed that guaranteeing full freedom in these two areas were fundamental to democracy.

"When I was president, I was sometimes stunned by the media criticisms of me. But I think that is the beauty of democracy," said former El Salvadorean president Francisco Flores while attending a session yesterday to address the role of the mass media in democratic development.

Flores said that the media could help uphold justice in societies where law and order does not take precedence.

Former South Korean president Kim Young-sam told the forum that the government should abandon its control of the media and refrain from using it to influence public opinions. Instead, freedom of the press should be used as a ground for nurturing democratic principles.

Former Polish president Lech Walesa said that the media faces the difficult decision of choosing profits or principles.

"All media owners should think about whether we should sell our values for money," he said.

Walesa added that global solidarity is the solution to conflicts and problems.

All five former heads of state joined President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) in announcing a joint declaration to show their support for the holding of the first forum in Taipei.

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