The Control Yuan yesterday impeached Hsieh Kung-ping (謝公秉), a top aide of former Hualien County commissioner Fu Kun-chi, for alleged involvement in the bribery of media companies using NT$5.26 million (US$167,090) of public funds.
A probe found that Hsieh, then secretary-general of the Hualien County Government, misappropriated funds from the county’s tax income to pay reporters to write articles and produce news segments trumpeting the achievement of the county government and Fu.
Hsieh and Lin Chin-hu (林金虎), head of the Research and Evaluation Section of the county government, were impeached for “damaging the public trust in the media’s fairness and independence,” and turning media outlets in Hualien into a “propaganda apparatus for Fu’s government,” the Control Yuan said in a report.
Hsieh was previously a spokesman for the People First Party and worked for years as a journalist, including 10 years heading up the political news desk at the United Daily News from 1992 to 2001.
Under Fu’s administration, Hsieh and Lin allegedly used a closed tender to create a “media database to promote county government policies,” with regular payments to 25 reporters from 14 news outlets.
Hsieh was recorded on video promising monthly payments of about NT$50,000 for help “gathering information” and to write positive news, with those “awarded” tender bids including reporters from the China Times, the United Daily News, the Keng Sheng Daily News, Formosa TV, Sanlih E-Television, Next TV, CtiTV, China Television Co, TVBS, Taiwan Television, ERA TV, ETTV News, Taiwan Indigenous TV and Hakka TV, the report said.
“Hsieh, as a former senior media figure, should know the ethical principles for news reporting and that reporters must distance themselves from government officials and subjects they are scrutinizing,” the county government said.
“However, Hsieh still utilized the closed tender to award work to reporters, leading to questions of whether public money was used to buy reporters, as well as harm to the county government’s image and the tarnishing of public confidence in media outlets,” it said.
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