Sat, Mar 10, 2007 - Page 3 News List

AP reporter will not be deported, government says

FREEDOM OF THE PRESSA Cabinet spokesman said that the government believed in free speech and would not revoke the critical reporter's visa

By Jimmy Chuang and Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTERS

The government said yesterday that it will not deport a foreign correspondent that the ruling party wants expelled for quoting Beijing's criticism of Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) in an article on Tuesday about Lu's presidential bid.

Cabinet Spokesman Cheng Wen-tsang (鄭文燦) yesterday said that the government will not suspend Associated Press (AP) correspondent Lee Ming's (李閩) visa or expel him.

The Government Information Office (GIO) said foreign reporters who -- like Lee -- are on temporary assignments in Taiwan do not need a specific type of visa for a short stay. However, foreign reporters stationed in Taiwan for an extended period of time need to report to the GIO to have their credentials validated.

"Lee was sent to Taipei on [temporary] assignment, so he does not require any credentials from the GIO. As such, there is no question of whether we should suspend his credentials," Cheng said during yesterday morning's legislative meeting.

"In addition, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) had said that they would do whatever was needed to uphold freedom of the press. So we will not revoke his visa either," he said.

People First Party Legislator Lee Hun-chun (李鴻鈞) suggested that the government file a suit against Lee Ming, but said it was unnecessary to suspend his visa.

Cheng told Lee Hung-chun that bottomline, the government is working to end the issue without harming any party.

Now that AP has promised to run an interview with the vice president to balance out its report, the government would naturally respect AP's decision, Cheng said.

"It seems to me that it is the best way to end the issue," Cheng said. "The government still welcomes AP reporters to be stationed and to work in Taiwan."

Meanwhile, two Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators yesterday continued to insist that the government should deport Lee within 24 hours.

DPP legislators Tsai Chi-fang (蔡啟芳) and Hou Shui-sheng (侯水盛) told a press conference that "Lee does not deserve respect for insulting the vice president."

The AP story described Lu as an "outspoken" vice president who China had called "insane" and "the scum of the nation." CNN posted the AP article on its Web site under the headline: "Taiwan's `scum of the nation' runs for president."

The article aroused a furious reaction not only from Lu but also from the DPP caucus. Caucus whip Wang Sing-nan (王幸男) said on Thursday that he would demand the resignation of Minister of Foreign Affairs James Huang (黃志芳) and Government Information Office Director Cheng Wen-tsang (鄭文燦) if they did not take action to expel Lee.

Meanwhile, the office of the vice president said late yesterday that the AP and CNN had replied to Lu's letter of protest and top executives from both media organizations said they were willing to cautiously look into the incident.

Thomas Curley, president and chief executive officer of AP and Christopher Cramer, executive vice president and managing director of CNN International, responded to Lu by personally signed letters, the vice president's office said.

Curley said that the AP did not agree with the attacks on Lu and respected the Taiwanese government and its people, adding that covering Taiwan's next presidential election would be a major task for AP, the vice president's office said

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