Sat, May 25, 2019 - Page 3 News List

Trust in judiciary, press freedom declining: survey

By Shih Hsiao-kuang and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Public trust in the judiciary is low, while freedom of the press and speech is deteriorating, a survey released on Thursday showed.

The poll, commissioned by the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) National Policy Foundation, found that 69.1 percent of respondents did not trust the judiciary against 19 percent who did.

Asked if government efforts to combat misinformation had affected press freedom, 53.2 percent said the policies had been detrimental to journalistic liberty, while 29.2 percent believed they had enabled freedom of the press.

The media provide balanced reports that are factually true, Chinese Culture University law professor Wu Yen-te (吳盈德) told a news conference.

However, the tendency by President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration to lump all news involving China as “fake news” is reminiscent of authoritarian countries issuing centralized and government-approved press releases, he said.

To regard any source of news that deviates from official press releases as fake is an assault on democracy and human rights, as a democratic society should support pluralism and diversity, he said.

What the public needs is the ability to discern falsehoods — not a government that insists that only one thing is right while everything else is false, Wu said.

The politicization of the judiciary was the main reason behind the low level of public trust, National University of Kaohsiung law professor Liao Yi-ming (廖義銘) said.

Constitutional interpretations by the Council of Grand Justices used to be trustworthy, but in recent years, the political inclination of certain grand justices has become apparent, Liao said.

Any legal case that would necessitate a choice as to which political camp would benefit usually ends up at the bottom of the pile, Liao said.

If people cannot trust the grand justices, then they would not trust the courts, regardless of which circuit the case goes to, he added.

The Tsai administration has also enabled legislation that smacks of “revenge,” Liao said, citing the Act Governing the Settlement of Ill-gotten Properties by Political Parties and Their Affiliate Organizations (政黨及其附隨組織不當取得財產處理條例), the Act on Promoting Transitional Justice (促進轉型正義條例) and other amendments targeting educators, civil servants and military personnel.

Liao accused the Tsai administration of empowering administrative organs with unproportional power and imposing heavier punitive actions against groups that have been the target of public ire.

Such actions have severely undermined the spirit of separation of powers, Liao said.

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