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Daily fines for reporter who refused to disclose his sources

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has condemned a Taipei court's decision on 24 April 2006 ordering "United Daily News" reporter Kao Nien-yi to pay a fine of 30,000 Taiwanese dollars (770 euros) every day until he revealed his sources for a report about a financial scandal. The order was enforced three days running before being suspended on 27 April.

"The judicial system must guarantee journalists the right to protect their sources so that they can work freely," Reporters Without Borders said. "The government must include journalists in the list of professions that enjoy the right to professional secrecy under the law."

Kao's story was about insider trading allegedly involving businessmen, government officials and companies. He is suspected of getting his information from a senior official who was investigating the case. Kao was already questioned over a similar case in 2003.

The "United Daily News" and Kao said they "both regard the fine as a serious violation of press freedom and have decided to appeal."

Taiwanese law contains no provision for the protection of journalists' sources, but grants other professionals such as lawyers and doctors the right to refuse to divulge confidential information. The judge acknowledged that Kao should have the right to protect his sources, but said the law did not accord him that right. He therefore convicted Kao of "protecting criminal activities and disrupting the financial market."

The Association of Taiwanese Journalists said in a statement on 25 April that the confidentiality of sources was an essential right and that Taiwanese law should guarantee it.

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