President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday expressed regret over the fate of New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who was given jail time for refusing to divulge the name of a source in an investigation into the leak of a CIA agent's name.
Chen made the remarks while attending a conference hosted by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) in Taipei yesterday.
Chen said he looks forward to the day when Taiwan enjoys the the same level of press freedoms that are enshrined in the First Amendment of the US Constitution, and called the Times journalist's jailing "regrettable."
"Given the recent incident [the jailing of the reporter] for refusing to reveal her source, it is regrettable that the US government seems to have not fully implemented freedom of the press, as guaranteed by the First Amendment," Chen said.
Miller, a veteran reporter who covered the Middle East, was locked up on Wednesday and will be detained until she agrees to reveal her source in the controversial case, or until the mandate of the grand jury probing the matter expires in October.
Chen told conference attendants that with the lifting of martial law in 1987 and the removal of a ban on political parties and press restrictions, the holding of direct presidential election in 1996 and the transfer of power in 2000, the media has been a "catalyst and watchdog" in the country's transformation to a democratic system.
The president went so far as to say that given the choice between national security and press freedom, he would choose a free press over security issues. He then acknowledge that not everyone would agree with this view.
Chen also said that the freedom of the press is an indispensable link to the development of democracy, and called on the Taiwanese people to respect the press and for press freedoms to be protect by law.
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