IFJ condemns Taipei police for obstructing journalist

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate, the Taiwan Journalists Association (TJA), in condemning the police of New Taipei City for abusing their powers by intercepting and threatening a journalist who was doing his job. On June 26, Lin Yu-you, a journalist for New Talk online media, was obstructed, threatened and jostled by police when he was trying to report on the arrest of several protestors who were demonstrating against the visit of China`s Taiwan Affairs Office director, Zhang Zhijun, to Wulai Township in New Taipei City, Taiwan. Lin said a police officer stopped him when he was trying to take photos. Lin called out and showed his press accreditation card, but the officer ignored this and said: “So what if you have a press card?” and “Who gave you a press card?” At one point, the officer accused him, saying: “You should not obstruct me in my duty.” Another police officer threatened to arrest him on the accusation that Lin’s elbow hit him. The TJA strongly protested against the anti-democratic actions by the police, which jeopardized the press freedom that is enshrined in the Taiwan Constitution. The TJA statement said: “This incident again exposes the lack of understanding on the part of the police of the role and function of front-line reporters. Journalists who are covering petitions or protests are acting as observers and are not themselves petitioners or protestors and are as a matter of course not the targets of police law enforcement.” This is the third recent case in which police in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, have abused their powers and undermined press freedom. In the early morning of March 24, several students and citizens stormed into the Executive Council to protest against a controversial draft “trade in services agreement” signed between China and the Taiwanese government. When the police cleared them, more than 50 protestors and journalists were injured. On April 28, journalists and photographers from news outlets including Apple Daily were manhandled by Taipei City Police when they were trying to disperse a demonstration against nuclear power. The IFJ Asia-Pacific Office said: “It is dangerous for police to accuse the media and even threaten to arrest media workers when they are unable to control them during a demonstration. This is an abuse of police power. It undermines people’s right to press freedom under the Taiwanese Constitution. The police need to be monitored by the media and the public to prevent them abusing their powers. “It is deeply worrying that the performance of Taiwan police when handling political protests is similar to that of Hong Kong police.” We urge the Taiwan police to remain political neutral in order to exercise their professional duties and defend people’s rights of free expression and a free press. We join the TJA in calling on the National Police Administration to have a direct dialogue with the TJA and other journalists’ organizations to establish a code of conduct so that press freedom is respected and defended during demonstrations.