The Association of Taiwan Journalists (ATJ) demanded yesterday that the National Police Agency (NPA) stop pressuring photojournalists to help find potential suspects in the rallies that ensued during a controversial visit made by Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait Chairman Chen Yun-lin (陳雲林) earlier this month.
“The police have put the reporters in grave danger by demanding that they rat on their interviewees,” ATJ president Leon Chuang (莊豐嘉) said.
“Such requests disparage the reporters’ right to work safely,” he said.
The ATJ said many photojournalists had filed complaints saying that the police have sought their help in identifying suspects who allegedly took part in the violence.
When the reporters refused to provide the pictures, the police went directly to heads of the news outlets to pressure the reporters into giving up the photos, ATJ said.
A number of police officers and protesters were injured in melees at various protest sites during Chen’s stay in Taipei. A TV reporter has yet to be released from hospital after being beaten up by a riot policeman who mistook him for a rioter. One officer reportedly had a stroke because of the resulting stress.
Chuang led a group of reporters to have a face-to-face conversation with NPA Director-General Wang Cho-chun (王卓鈞), but the offer was rejected.
The police yesterday said the accusation was groundless, arguing that it is customary for the police to solicit the media’s help in gathering evidence.
Taipei City Policy Bureau media contact Wang Wen-shen (王文伸) shrugged off the accusation saying: “Do you really think the police have enough power to force reporters to do anything?”
He said that for many years, the police have asked the media to help in gathering information. It is common for law enforcement to ask both television news stations and print media to provide footage of an event where illegal conduct might have occured.
Reporters, he added, retain the right to refuse the request.
A member of the Beitou Precinct Investigation Team, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that he was unaware of the particular request.
But the member confirmed confirmed that it is routine for the police to ask reporters to provide photos after any large-scale demonstration to help gather evidence.
“But it’s nothing mandatory. Lots of reporters do not comply and we don’t make a big fuss about it,” he said.
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