`China Times' ban gets mixed reaction

BOYCOTT: DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming expressed his reservations about Yu Shyi-kun's action but the party said that the newspaper's principles were `twisted'

By Flora Wang and Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Sat, Dec 30, 2006 - Page 3

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairman Yu Shyi-kun's comments on Thursday announcing the Chinese-language China Times as persona non grata and to which the DPP would deny access drew a mixed reaction from legislators yesterday.

DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said Yu's boycott of the paper was the result of Yu's personal resentment of the paper.

"Chairman Yu has a personal grievance with the China Times, but that should not be elevated to party level," Ker said. "We 100 percent respect freedom of the press, but we also hope the press maintains impartiality."

Yu declared the boycott on Thursday after he appeared in court for a defamation lawsuit against the paper after it claimed that Yu used the term "Chinese pigs" to refer to anti-President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) protesters in a front page story on Sep 25.

Although the paper later acknowledged the accusation made in its story was groundless, Yu did not withdraw the lawsuit.

Yu criticized the paper's editor-in-chief, Wang Chien-chuang (王健壯) for making it a "mouthpiece" of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).

The DPP late on Thursday night issued a statement to elaborate on Yu's comments.

It said Yu's action against the China Times was aimed at the paper's "twisted guiding principles resulting from political and economic interests" and that "it was not an attempt to deny journalists' rights to work."

"The China Times has lost its objectivity because of meddling in political wrangles," the statement said.

It added that Yu's announcement was in line with the party's platform to safeguard press freedom.

DPP Legislator Gao Jyh-peng (高志鵬) agreed with Yu's decision and said yesterday that, in view of the "high trumpeting of the Fourth Estate," he could not think of other better ways to protest against the paper.

DPP Lawmaker Cheng Yun-peng (鄭運鵬) said that while he personally would not refuse to be interviewed by the paper, the boycott could serve as a warning for the paper to engage in some introspection.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday said it was inappropriate for Yu, as a party chairman, to boycott the paper.

"I believe that many politicians have mixed feelings about the press, but the media is, after all, the Fourth Estate, which is an important tool to guarantee diversity in a democratic society," Ma said, adding that he believed Yu had overreacted.

When asked by the press to comment, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) said he felt awkward discussing the matter.

"Whatever I say would be interpreted as a criticism of [Yu]," Wang said.

Wang said Yu's action was understandable, but he added that he would not do the same thing if he were Yu.

"I was often [misunderstood] by the press," Wang told reporters. "You often made a fuss over what I said, but I chose to leave it at that."

KMT lawmakers were less than tactful in their comments on Yu, blasting his announcement as akin to "political terrorism."

"Yu stifles free speech," KMT Legislator Tsai Chin-lung (蔡錦隆) said.

KMT Legislator Lin Te-fu (林德福) said the DPP had no right to turn media down as the government subsidizes the party to the tune of NT$ 170 million (US$ 5.2 million) a year.

The KMT lawmakers asked Yu to revoke his announcement, which they said would do "harm to the country's democracy and the public's right to know."

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