Sun, Feb 22, 2009 - Page 3 News List

Groups criticize censorship at the legislature

BEHIND THE SCENEWhile people can now see online what is going on inside the legislature, grittier action, from shouting matches to melees, is being censored

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

The legislature finally made available on Friday its video-on-demand (VOD) system, which allows proceedings in all chambers to be broadcast live online and be accessible to the public.

The system allows people to watch legislative meetings live online or to access videoclips permanently stored in the system on-demand.

However, it soon came under fire: The system is designed to avoid broadcasting scenes whenever meetings degenerate into a melee.

FULL PICTURE

Some fear, however, that selective broadcasts could limit people’s understanding of what is going on.

For example, when Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers criticized Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) on the legislative floor on Friday and demanded that he apologize for the economic situation, the VOD system showed a wall of the chamber and the sound was muted.

The VOD system was previously only available at the legislative building and legislators’ constituency offices across the country. Back then, no footage were cut.

DPP Legislator Wong Chin-chu (翁金珠) said the new broadcasting system denied people their right to know what is going on at the legislature.

The director of the legislature’s Information Technology Department, Chen Shi-yang (陳熙揚), defended the practice, saying it was conducted in accordance with a consensus reached with the DPP caucus that controversial scenes be censored out of concern for the image of the legislature.

COMPROMISE

Legislative watchdog Citizen Congress Watch (CCW) executive director Ho Tsung-hsun (何宗勳) said the consensus was a compromise to get some lawmakers to agree to make the broadcasts available to the public.

Ho said his organization had received many complaints about the censorship on Friday, adding that the CCW hoped pressure from the public would help change the broadcasting rules.

Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) said the rules were established by a taskforce composed of four Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers and three DPP lawmakers and that similar rules had been adopted by other countries.

Whether the rules should be revised was open to debate, Wang said.

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