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CPJ concerned about charges against journalists

(CPJ/IFEX) - The following is a 1 April 2002 CPJ letter to the president of the Republic of China, Chen Shui-bian:

April 1, 2002

Committee to Protect Journalists
330 Seventh Avenue, 12th floor
New York, NY 10001

His Excellency Chen Shui-bian
President, Republic of China
Office of the President
122 Chung-King South Road-Section 1
Taipei, Taiwan
Republic of China

Via facsimile: 886-2-2311-1604

Your Excellency,

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) appreciates your rapid response to our protest letter about the Taiwanese government's recent attempt to censor news reports on the basis of national security concerns.

However, we remain concerned about legal proceedings initiated against local journalists who reported on how Taiwanese officials used secret government funds to buy influence and favor abroad under the administration of former president Lee Teng-hui.

In your March 26 letter to CPJ, you stated that, "the essence of democracy should never be quelled under the pretext of national security, nor should the flag of national security be used as a cover for undermining press freedom...We are resolute and determined to safeguard the constitutionally sanctioned civil rights of each and every citizen."

CPJ fully agrees with this statement, but we fear that recent actions by your government have undermined Taiwan's legal protections for freedom of speech, which is guaranteed in Article 11 of the constitution.

Since our March 20 letter to Your Excellency, Huang Ching-lung, editor of the Chinese-language daily China Times, has been charged with endangering national security based on an article about the secret government funds that ran in that day's paper.

On March 26, Taiwan Next reporter Shieh Chung-liang, whose article on the secret funds appeared in the weekly's March 21 edition, was questioned by High Court prosecutors as part of the investigative stage of legal proceedings against him. During the proceedings, Shieh refused to divulge the source for his story.

CPJ strongly urges Your Excellency to ensure that your promises to respect press freedom are reflected in the policies and actions of your administration. While CPJ appreciates Taiwan's national security concerns, we are not convinced that the articles in Taiwan Next and China Times pose a genuine threat to national security.

Moreover, we see no justification for raiding the offices of Taiwan Next and attempting to censor the publication. We therefore ask that your government conduct a thorough and swift investigation into the government's actions against Taiwan Next. We also urge Your Excellency to ensure that charges of endangering national security are not misused during any legal proceedings against Huang, Shieh, or other journalists involved in covering Taiwanese government affairs.

CPJ will continue to monitor this case as it develops. Thank you for your continued attention to this important matter.

Ann Cooper
Executive Director

Arthur Iap, Director-General, Government Information Office, Republic of China
Tsai Chao-ming, Director, National Security Bureau, Republic of China
American Society of Newspaper Editors
Amnesty International
Article 19 (United Kingdom)
Artikel 19 (The Netherlands)
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Freedom Forum
Freedom House
Human Rights Watch
Index on Censorship
International Center for Journalists
International Federation of Journalists
International PEN
International Press Institute
Lorne W. Craner, United States Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
The Newspaper Guild
The North American Broadcasters Association
Overseas Press Club
Reporters Sans Frontières
Mary Robinson, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
The Society of Professional Journalists
World Association of Newspapers
World Press Freedom Committee

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His Excellency Chen Shui-bian
President, Republic of China
Office of the President
122 Chung-King South Road-Section 1
Taipei, Taiwan
Republic of China

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