Illegal breach of Taiwan journalists’ records

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate the Association of Taiwan Journalists (ATJ) strongly criticise the breach by a government officer in illegal accessing journalists’ communication records. According to an announcement by Control Yuan, the monitoring body of the Taiwan Government on September 13, an officer of the Department of Government Employee Ethics (EED), under supervision of the Ministry of Justice, had illegal access a journalist’s communication records. The officer was investigating the Taiwan Dome Complex case when the breach was made. The Control Yuan said that as “when disciplinary officers could not distinguish that nature of their power, administrative investigative powers should always be exercised in accordance with law and principle, and not overstep administrative power”. However the Control Yuan has learnt that the officer used several different tools to ‘investigate’ and access the journalist’s records. The Control Yuan said that “the act has abused their power and infringed on the people’s rights and jeopardised press freedom”.The Control Yuan has demanded that the Ministry of Justice rectify the breach, and clarify the limits of administrative power, in order to protect the people’s rights.Li Ching-Huei, the president of ATJ criticised the EED officer. He said: “The EED officer has administrative investigative powers, and they have abused these powers to infringe on the rights of the media by accessing the journalist’s communication records.” He reminded all journalists to object to any request by authorities for journalists’ to cooperate with investigations. He also said that the Ministry of Justice has a “duty to protect press freedom and not to regress back to the Martial Law period.”The Taiwan Dome Complex case was sparked when Ko Wen-je, the Mayor of Taipei queries the safety of additional structures around the complex. The comments led to a dispute between the construction company and the government. A survey was conducted by the government, which several online media outlets got access to, and released some of the results. The leaking of the survey led to an investigation into the complex. It remains unclear how many journalists’ records were accessed without permission as the government investigated the leak to the media.The IFJ Asia Pacific Office said: “While we welcome the statement by the Ministry of Justice that they will rectify the breach, it remains unclear how many journalists’ records were breached, or what was done with the information.”We call on Chiu Tai-San, the Minister for Justice, to ensure that all journalistic materials that were illegal accessed are destroyed, and those journalists’ who’s records were accessed be advised.

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