Thu, Sep 14, 2017 - Page 3 News List

NPP backing drive for transparency by local councils

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

The Local Government Act (地方制度法) should be revised to require city and county councils to air their meetings online, New Power Party (NPP) caucus whip Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明) said yesterday, blasting the Penghu County Council’s restrictions on local media monitoring.

Hsu joined about a dozen transparency campaigners affiliated with Citizen Congress Watch and related groups in calling for local councils to promote transparency by allowing online broadcasts of their sessions.

“Local councils should not act like they are fringe areas immune to democratizing influence — as representative bodies, they are responsible to the public and most already have the equipment in place to allow for direct broadcasting,” Hsu said.

Transparency will be a key plank of the New Power Party’s platform in next year’s mayoral and councilor elections, he said.

Local council transparency falls short of the live broadcasts of all Legislative Yuan meetings, Hsu said.

The lack of transparency and the “cooperation funds” allocated to council members contribute to the weak supervision of executive budgets in many localities in the nation, he said.

“The Chiayi County Government’s official budget has not been slashed in four years, and Hsinchu County’s has not been cut in 12, while the Miaoli County Council has not forced cuts in 22 [years] — what have these councils been doing to protect taxpayers’ dollars?” he said.

The Local Government Act should be amended to require all county and city council public meetings be recorded and broadcast live, he said.

Better broadcasts and minutes for council meetings have been a longstanding demand of transparency campaigners following national-level successes, with the current controversy sparked by a lawsuit against the Penghu County Council’s ban on online broadcasting of its meetings.

The Chinese-language Beautiful Bays Weekly filed the lawsuit after the council refused to allow an Internet live broadcasts.

“While there is a cable broadcast of question-and-answer sessions with the county commissioner, much of that is just a performance and no committee meeting broadcasts are offered,” magazine president Chang Hung-kuang (張弘光) said.

He said he would appeal the unfavorable ruling his suit received in July by the Kaohsiung High Administrative Court.

The Penghu County Council abruptly adjourned a session last year to stymie a direct online broadcast after the magazine’s reporters set up broadcast equipment without permission.

Citizen Congress Watch executive director Chang Hung-lin (張宏林) said while the council has improved access to its meeting minutes since the 2014 elections, the lack of an online video archive has limited the usefulness of live cable broadcasts.

“Basically, people have to take time off from work if they want to watch, because nothing is happening live when they get home,” he said.

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