The Legislative Yuan is absurdly the only public institution that restricts press freedom with arbitrary regulations that deny the entry of journalists that it deems unqualified, a group of independent journalists and reporters from non-profit organizations said yesterday.
Led by Citizen’s Congress Watch (CCW), several groups and independent journalists held a press conference at the legislature in Taipei, calling on Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) to take on the transparency problem.
The “Legislative Yuan Directions on Issuing Press Passes,” revised and announced on April 10 last year, states 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.
Photo: Wang Yi-sung, Taipei Times
“Those reporting on local news and individuals issuing subjective news articles on the Internet are excluded from the issuance [of press passes],” it says.
“The Council of Grand Justices’ Interpretation No. 689 states that newsgathering rights, which are protected by the freedom of the press, should be enjoyed by not only reporters belonging to certain news agencies, but also general individuals who gather news to provide newsworthy information to the public or to strengthen supervision of the government by way of promoting public debate,” CCW chief executive Chang Hung-lin (張宏林) said.
The legislative directives on issuing press passes, “which are not even executive orders,” are unconstitutional, he said.
Chu Shu-chuan (朱淑娟), a freelance journalist who used to work for the mainstream media, said she has visited many public offices for her work on environmental reporting, but the legislature is the only place that has restricted her rights of entry, “making it, ironically, the most undemocratic place” among all public institutions.
“What is ridiculous is that even publications such as CommonWealth Magazine and Next Magazine are not able to secure passes for their reporters, so they have to go to the front desk every time they need to get into the legislative building to secure temporary passes. Moreover, freelance journalists and those from non-commercial organizations are, according to the rules, denied even temporary passes,” she said.
Journalists from online media outlets that focus on particular subjects, such as the environment, labor rights or social issues, complained about the arbitrary process of issuing passes.
They said that whether they receive a temporary pass is often dependent on the person they are dealing with that day.
Wang Hao-chung (王顥中), a reporter for Coolloud Collective (苦勞網), an online platform dedicated to social activism, said the process is very “subjective.”
“You have a higher chance of getting a temporary pass if you carry a professional camera or wear formal attire,” Wang said. “However, a temporary pass cannot get you into the main legislative chamber. While it is possible for those who do not have a regular press pass to get into the chamber using a general visitor’s pass that is issued to members of the public to sit in on meetings, this type of pass allows the visitor to stay for only 30 minutes.”
A journalist from an environmental organization said that she had been told that the more significant or controversial the bills on the agenda, the stricter the enforcement of rules on visitors.
The groups demanded the removal of the “unconstitutional” provisions in the legislative directives before the end of this plenary session and the immediate suspension of the practice which blocks independent journalists from entering the Legislative Yuan.
HONG KONG SECURITY: The president blasted regulations requiring Taiwanese agents or political organizations to provide information on their Hong Kong-related activities President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday warned of countermeasures should controversial Chinese national security legislation imposed on Hong Kong undermine or harm Taiwanese interests. Article 43 of the legislation empowers the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to serve written notices to Taiwanese political organizations or individual agents to furnish information on their Hong Kong-related activities, including their personal particulars, finances, assets, expenditure and capital in the territory. Failure to comply or providing false or incomplete information can result in a fine of HK$100,000 (US$12,903) or imprisonment of six months or two years respectively. Tsai said that Taiwan would keep a close watch on how
JUST QUESTIONS: Expelled reporter Ai Kezhu said that every member of Southeast Television had complied with the law and had not appeared on any talk shows Two Chinese reporters yesterday left Taiwan after the government revoked their accreditation and ordered them to leave amid a probe into allegations that several Chinese media outlets have set up studios and produced political talk shows in Taiwan. The two reporters — Ai Kezhu (艾珂竹) and Lu Qiang (盧薔) — worked for Fujian Province-based Southeast Television and arrived in Taiwan in December last year. The Mainland Affairs Council has launched an investigation after local media reported that Chinese broadcasters — including China Central Television, Southeast Television and FJTV — had set up studios in Taipei and produced political talk shows. Council Deputy Minister
PROBE LAUNCHED: An officer who served as a supervisor in the drill died in an apparent suicide after the accident, which was caused by unexpected waves Two marines who were on Friday injured in a military exercise in the waters off Kaohsiung passed away yesterday, Navy Command said. The marines — surnamed Tsai (蔡), 26, and a sergeant surnamed Chen (陳), 36 — were in a seven-member Marine Corps team that encountered rough seas during a simulated response to enemy forces landing on Taiwan. Their rubber craft overturned in waters off Taoziyuan (桃子園) beach in Zuoying District (左營), injuring four of the marines. They were rushed to hospital, where three of them — Tsai, Chen and a 34-year-old sergeant — were taken to an intensive care unit
‘SIGNAL TO ALLIES’: The US Navy’s exercises are not in response to those carried out by China, the commander of the strike group led by the USS ‘Ronald Reagan’ said Two US aircraft carriers were yesterday conducting exercises in the disputed South China Sea, the US Navy said as China also carried out military drills that have been criticized by the US Department of Defense and neighboring states. China and the US have accused each other of stoking tension in the waterway at a time of strained relations over everything from COVID-19 to trade to Hong Kong. The USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan were carrying out operations and exercises in the South China Sea “to support a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the navy said in a statement. It did not say exactly