(RSF/IFEX) - In a letter to Interior Minister Po-ya Chang, RSF protested the seizure of the weekly "Next" magazine's 21 March 2002 issue, as ordered by the National Security Bureau. "Without commenting on the merits of this case, the use of such practices is unworthy of a democracy like Taiwan," said RSF Secretary-General Robert Ménard. "Invoking national security to justify this seizure is very questionable. The magazine merely reported information about a case that is public knowledge in Taiwan," added Ménard. RSF called for the return of the seized copies of the magazine, and asked that no charges be filed against the article's author, journalist Hsueh Chung-liang.
According to information obtained by RSF, police burst into the offices of the weekly "Next" magazine in Taipei on the morning of 20 March, as well as the magazine's printer. National Security Bureau (NSB) agents seized the latest issue of the magazine, dated 21 March, which, according to the authorities, "endangered national security." Though 160,000 copies of the magazine were confiscated, "Next" magazine was still available in newsstands. The magazine's staff managed to make a second printing of the issue at an undisclosed location.
"Next" magazine published a feature article on its front page titled "Lee Teng-hui Illegally Used 3 Billion Taiwanese Dollars". The article disclosed the existence of secret bank accounts used by former president Lee's government to finance spying missions in China and buy diplomatic relations with certain countries. According to NSB Director Tsai Chao-Ming, "the content of this article violated state secrets and seriously endangered national security." He warned that charges may be filed against the magazine. According to a Taiwanese journalist contacted by RSF, the magazine's staff is concerned about the impact this will have on the publication's advertising revenues.
Police also searched the home of journalist Hsueh Chung-Liang, author of the article in question. According to a journalist with "Apple Daily", a sister publication of "Next" magazine based in Hong Kong, Hsueh Chung-Liang could be tried and was formally told not to leave the island.
The Taiwanese daily "China Times" also printed an article about the case involving secret funds in its 20 March issue, based on information provided to it by a former secret agent now living in exile overseas. The NSB told the press that the no charges would be filed against the "China Times", nor would it be seized, because its editors had sent them the information prior to publication.