IFJ Calls for End to Criminal Defamation in Taiwan

The

International Federation of Journalists joins its affiliate, the Association of

Taiwan Journalists (ATJ), in expressing concern over the continued use of

criminal defamation laws to curb press freedom in Taiwan.

 

ATJ

chairperson, Lin Chau-yi, a reporter for independent news website Newtalk, and

Su Jeng-ping, the website’s administrator, were sued for criminal defamation by

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislator Hsieh Guo-liang. The legal action

was taken in response to an article published by Newtalk on September 2.

 

The

article reported meetings between Hsieh and members of Taiwan’s National Communications Commission

prior to their public hearing of an application regarding one of Taiwan’s

largest ever multi-media acquisitions.

 

Want

Want China Broadband, a subsidiary of the Want Want Group, already owns several

newspapers, magazines and terrestrial and satellite television stations in Taiwan. The

proposed acquisition would see the company purchase an additional 11 cable

television companies for TWD 76 billion (USD 2.6 billion), allowing the company

to secure 23 per cent of Taiwan’s market  of cable subscribers. The purchase would enable the company to control one-third

of Taiwan’s

media market.

 

The

article queried the purpose of the meetings but also included the denial by Hsieh

that the meeting involved any inappropriate pressure being placed on the

Commission.

 

In

his claim against Lin, Hsieh successfully applied for provisional seizure of a third

of Lin’s monthly salary as collateral against possible future damages.

 

Although Hsieh

subsequently retracted his provisional seizure claim in response to negative

media coverage, the IFJ is

concerned that laws allowing seizure of defendants’ assets prior to hearings

threatens the livelihoods of journalists.

 

“Accountability

is the foundation of a democratic society. It is the responsibility of the

media to report on cases of public interest and hold public officials

accountable for their actions,” the IFJ Asia-Pacific said.

 

“Criminal

defamation laws curtail press freedom by allowing public figures to threaten

journalists with criminal action and provisional seizure of their assets. Such

laws are inconsistent with accountability and transparency.”

 

The IFJ urges the Taiwan Government to repeal

current defamation laws and institute defamation as a civil offence, with

relevant safeguards for press freedom and journalists’ ability to report on

matters of public interest.

 

The

case will be heard on October 27.

 

For

further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919

 

The IFJ

represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries

 

Find

the IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific

 

Find the

IFJ on Facebook: www.facebook.com/IFJAsiaPacific