Independent journalists were yesterday invited to the Legislative Yuan by Deputy Legislative Speaker Tsai Chi-chang (蔡其昌) to discuss possible solutions to the controversy surrounding their restricted access to the legislature.
The “Legislative Yuan Directions on Issuing Press Passes,” revised and announced on April 10, 2014, stipulates that only reporters from institutions registered as commercial companies and where national news constitutes at least 60 percent of their coverage are to be granted press passes.
Tsai said before the forum that the new legislature’s sole guideline on this issue is openness, and that he would like to listen to the involved parties’ opinions, especially for the achievement of a consensus on how transparency could be implemented with actual measures.
Photo: Chen Chih-chu, Taipei Times
During the discussion, the journalists pointed out sundry existing measures they said are outdated and not conducive to the idea of transparency, but were not exactly on the same page when it came to how an “open legislature” could be realized in terms of distinguishing journalists — whether they be independent or from a registered institution — from the general public visiting for a sit-in.
Chen Yen-ting (陳彥廷), a reporter with the online media outlet The Reporter, said that the protection stated in the Council of Grand Justices’ Interpretation No. 689 is “not just for the reporters belonging to for-profit news agencies, but newsgathering rights in general, or anyone who gathers news to provide newsworthy information to the public,” he said.
Chu Shu-chuan (朱淑娟), a freelance journalist who used to work for the mainstream media, said she has free access to the Executive Yuan and many other public offices for her work.
“A Hong Kong friend told me that it would be impossible in Hong Kong. Taiwan should be proud of this openness. It is just ironic that the legislature is the only place that has restricted my rights of entry,” she said.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Wellington Koo (顧立雄) said a crucial point worth noting is the limited space in the Legislative Yuan.
“With limited space in a room, could the reporters accept a first-come, first-served principle?” he asked.
A representative of the Congressional Investigation Corps said the problem concerning the restricted room could be partly solved by an updated and enhanced IVOD (the Legislative Yuan’s live streaming system).
“The IVOD would get stuck whenever there are more than 200 people watching, and it also provides only one perspective [featuring lawmakers and officials questioned],” he said, calling for improvement.
While there were also calls for complete openness without any form of checks, not everyone agreed with the view.
Social Democratic Party spokesperson Miao Bo-ya (苗博雅), taking the UK as an example, said openness could be conditional upon the media’s self-discipline.
“It does not have to be the Legislative Yuan that sets up the rules; a professional media association could take over the rein in regulating the access, as we all know, which the deputy legislative speaker might have hesitated to say in his capacity, completely free access without some form of checks could risk the system being taken advantage by protesters or other visitors with ill intent,” Miao said.
Tsai said there are some suggestions that would require the legislative assembly’s passage, such as those involving the IVOD system, but there are also some that could be done with the legislative speaker’s approval, promising to hasten the processing after combing through the opinions.
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