Taipei denies journalist groups' accusations of press intervention

2018/08/08 14:24:02 fontsize-small fontsize-default fontsize-big
Image taken from Pixabay

Image taken from Pixabay

Taipei, Aug. 8 (CNA) The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its Taiwan affiliate have accused the Taipei City government of intervention in media reports and intimidation of the press, acts that City Hall denied Wednesday.

The IFJ and the Association of Taiwan Journalists (ATJ) released a joint statement Tuesday accusing the city government of intervening in three events of media reporting in less than one year, raising serious concerns about its commitment to press freedom.

The statement, titled "Harassment of Media by Taiwan Officials Continues," drew a denial later that day, with Taipei City spokesman Liu Yi-ting (劉奕霆) contending that "the city government has never behaved this way," and that it "respects media reporting and the freedom of the press."

On Wednesday, the IFJ and ATJ issued a joint statement again, demanding that the city government "deliver a concrete explanation" for its denial.

In the statement, the associations reminded the city government again that "it should not misjudge the country's determination not to go back to the martial law era."

It reiterated its call on Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) to give his reassurance that neither he nor any member of his team have been involved in the departure of a CTi News reporter, who had investigated Ko's controversial remarks about cross-Taiwan Strait relations at the Taipei-Shanghai forum, held in Shanghai in July 2017.

Liu responded with repeated arguments that "the city government has never intervened in the freedom of the press, nor has it intimidated the media."

The journalist organizations recalled in its first statement that Ko's remarks at the Shanghai forum ignited a public outcry in Taiwan when he said that the two sides of the strait were "one close family" and "a shared community of destiny."

"Whether or not the mayor had his language cleared by the central government has been in dispute ever since. Ko insists that the National Security Council was provided with a draft to his speech, but the NSC said that was not the case," the statement said.

On June 3, it went on, CTi News reporter Chen Yun-wen (陳韻雯) wrote a post on Facebook claiming that she had obtained Ko's draft and found no mention of those expressions, and that she had prepared a segment to air June 1.

However, the segment was never aired and Chen publicly accused Ko of having silenced her story, the statement said, noting that Ko later dismissed Chen's inquiry by implying that "he expected his team should have had her 'taken care of' by then."

The interaction was caught on video, which Chen also posted to her Facebook, but it was subsequently removed, the statement said.

It further cited two incidents, including one in which a Storm Media reporter wrote a report regarding a dispute between the city government and contractors for a lantern festival project. That reporter then had all his requests for interviews and information rejected by city departments.

The other incident involves the city's Department of Health, which the statement accused of intervening in reporting of a breach of personal information of over 3,000 AIDS patients in June.

"There is clearly a trail that shouldn't go unnoticed," ATJ general secretary Ian Chen (陳益能) was cited as saying in the Aug. 7 statement.

"As a result, we are left with no choice but to unreservedly condemn Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je for the repeated transgressions on journalists' right to free reporting," said Chen.

The IFJ said that "the pattern of intimidation and harassment of journalists by the Taipei City government raises serious questions about the freedom of the press in Taiwan, and the ability of the press to hold those in power to account."

"We stand in solidarity with ATJ in calling on the government to cease the harassment and boycotting of journalists for simply doing their jobs," the IFJ said.

(By Zoe Wei, Liang Pei-chi, Sabine Cheng and Elizabeth Hsu)
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