Attacks on the Press in 1997 - Taiwan
|Publisher||Committee to Protect Journalists|
|Publication Date||February 1998|
|Cite as||Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1997 - Taiwan, February 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47c56551c.html [accessed 26 July 2014]|
A dramatic criminal libel suit pitting Taiwan's nascent free press tradition against the once-unchallenged power of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) ended in acquittal in April. The closely watched case was filed by Liu Tai-ying, the influential business manager of the Kuomintang (KMT), against U.S. reporter Ying Chan and Taiwanese reporter Shieh Chung-liang of the Hong Kong-based weekly magazine Yazhou Zhoukan (Asia Week) after an article by the two journalists alleged that Liu had offered $15 million to U.S. President Bill Clinton's re-election campaign fund. CPJ joined an amicus brief on behalf of the journalists in April, and in October awarded Shieh and Chan a 1997 International Press Freedom Award. Although Liu has appealed the acquittal, the initial verdict was widely hailed as a triumph for the Taiwanese press.
Taiwan's broad criminal libel laws, a legacy of the decades of martial rule that ended in 1987, are frequently used by powerful forces in the government, the KMT, and corporations attempting to curb an otherwise free press. As a result, editors and publishers face the constant threat of costly lawsuits, which may carry criminal sanctions. In August, the government's top intelligence agency filed criminal libel charges against the Independence Morning Post newspaper after an article in the paper accused intelligence director Yin Tsung-wen of ordering the phone-tapping of National Assembly deputies. Against the objections of some staff members, the newspaper publicly apologized in order to avoid a court fight.
The government places few direct roadblocks in the way of a lively national press, however, and Taiwan's generally good record on press freedom stands in direct contrast to China, which hopes one day to convince Taiwan to rejoin the mainland under the "One Country, Two Systems" formula being used in Hong Kong. Relations with the mainland could be further complicated due to the overwhelming defeat of the KMT in municipal elections in November by an opposition party that advocates independence from China.