Fri, Feb 13, 2015 - Page 3 News List

PRISON DRAMA: Drone use, interview fuel controversy

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Reporters wait outside Kaohsiung Prison on Wednesday night during on the hostage drama.

Photo: Chang Chia-ming, Taipei Times

Controversy followed media coverage of the 14-hour hostage crisis at the Kaohsiung Prison in Daliao District (大寮), after the use of drones equipped with cameras to capture footage enraged the hostage-takers, who fired into the air — threatening the lives of the hostages and bystanders.

Meanwhile, the CTiTV News Tornado (新聞龍捲風) talk show was criticized for its live broadcast of an interview with prison warden Chen Shih-chih (陳世志) while he was still being held by the six convicts.

During the interview, program host James Tai (戴立綱) reportedly kept pressing Chen for details about events inside the prison. Tai was also accused of using overly dramatic tones in reaction to Chen’s responses.

However, netizens characterized the seven-minute interview as a farce, as it appeared as though nothing was happening in the prison.

CTiTV said in a statement that they originally wanted to interview the hostage negotiator, Kaohsiung City Councilor Lee Rong-tsung (李榮宗), but Lee gave his mobile phone to Chen instead, letting him speak for himself.

National Chengchi University journalism professor Lin Yuan-huei (林元輝) said that the convicts still had the hostages even as reporters sought updates. Therefore, the lives of the hostages could be in danger if anything went wrong, he said.

Reporters must consider whether using drones is necessary in such circumstances, Lin said.

“The purpose of using drones in this case was to get information more quickly,” he said. “However, one really has to question whether [drone] aerial photography could capture any meaningful images in this case, particularly in the dark.”

Lin said that he understands that reporters were under a lot of pressure and have to compete with each to get exclusive updates, but they can choose not to compete in emergency situations to avoid interfering in the rescue of hostages.

Even though CTiTV said that it did not intend to call the warden, Lin said that the interview should have been cut off as soon as the warden started speaking.

“The warden was taken hostage and was surrounded by armed individuals. How can you expect him to say anything meaningful in such a circumstance? Anything he said could have upset the convicts, and media outlets should do everything they can prevent the convicts from doing anything extreme,” Lin said.

May Chen (陳依玫), chairwoman of the self-disciplinary committee of the Satellite Television Broadcasting Association (STBA), said that association members would convene after the Lunar New Year holiday to discuss the proper use of drones in news reporting in light of yesterday’s event.

The association includes several large television networks.

May Chen said that the group’s self-disciplinary guideline stipulates that members cannot endanger the safety of hostages or interfere in official rescue operations when reporting the news.

She added that she had asked Deputy Minister of Justice Chen Ming-tang (陳明堂) to call her immediately if the ministry considered the media coverage disruptive to law enforcement officials.

“I think several issues can be open for further discussions, including whether media personnel can interview a mediator of the negotiation while hostages are yet to be rescued, or whether such an interview could potentially prevent the police from saving the hostages,” she said.

The National Communications Commission yesterday said that it would watch coverage by each network to see how they use drones before discussing the issue with the association.

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