Sat, Aug 25, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Press walks out on summit

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER , IN TEGUCIGALPA

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators Diane Lee, left, and Hsu Shao-ping yesterday display a cartoon published in a Honduran newspaper criticizing President Chen Shui-bian for engaging in ''dollar diplomacy.''

PHOTO: LO PEI-DER, TAIPEI TIMES

The Taiwanese press corps walked out on the leaders' summit of the sixth annual summit of leaders of the nation's Latin American allies -- the highlight of President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) nine-day trip to Central America -- to protest poor treatment by event organizers.

While the event was originally scheduled to begin at 9am, the late arrival of Nicaraguan Vice President Jaime Morales delayed it for about an hour.

The Taiwanese press corps was caught by surprise when the organizer cut off the live broadcast of the summit when Chen was about to speak.

The Presidential Office lodged a protest, but was told by the organizer that the broadcast had been halted by order of Honduran President Jose Manuel Zelaya.

While a press conference had been scheduled right after the summit ended, it was delayed for more than two hours.

Furthermore, the organizer had originally arranged for five members of the media to ask questions, including one from Taiwan. They then added two more media to the list, with one from Taiwan and the other from Honduras.

The master of ceremonies, however, called on only two reporters to ask questions -- one from El Salvador and the other from Honduras.

He also interrupted Chen twice, citing time constraints.

After the Presidential Office failed to negotiate for more time, the press corps walked out of the room after Chen made his closing remarks.

Zelaya did not respond when approached by the Taiwanese media for comment.

Chen later apologized to the press corps for the incidents.

Chen told reporters afterward that the press conference scheduled for Tuesday night was canceled because his meeting with Zelaya had taken too long.

Another press conference scheduled for Wednesday afternoon was canceled because he had to rush back to his hotel room to talk with Panamanian President Martin Torrijos Espino on the telephone, Chen said.

As for the treatment the Taiwanese press corps received at the summit press conference, Chen said his understanding was that the Chinese translation of his speech would have taken too long and that the organizer had not deliberately barred the Taiwanese press corps from asking questions.

Chen said he told Zelaya about the press corps' unhappiness and asked him whether he would be interested in jointly answering reporters' questions at the ranch where the two rode horses.

Chen said Zelaya agreed, but the press corps turned down the offer.

Chen came to the press room later in the evening in order to explain further.

Explaining that Latin Americans operate on a more relaxed schedule than Taiwanese, Chen asked reporters to make allowances for local customs.

He said it was wrong to blame Zelaya for what had happened because Zelaya has been very supportive of Taiwan.

Nor was it right to interpret the incident as a form of discrimination or suppression against Taiwan because every national leader has different personality and style, Chen said.

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