Everybody knows freedom of the press is the right to publish facts, ideas, and opinions without interference from the government or from private groups.Our Constitution guarantees freedom of the press, too.
Of course, laws against libel and invasion of privacy protect people from writings that could endanger their reputation and privacy.Yu Shyi-kung, chairman of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, is therefore suing the China Times for defaming him by misquoting him on purpose.On September 15, the Chinese language paper reported Yu called Redshirt protestors “Chinese pigs.”An apology was offered by the paper later, but Yu decided to sue.Incidentally, the Redshirts are supporters of Shih Ming-teh, a former DPP chairman who wants to depose President Chen Shui-bian.
Yu has every right to seek reparation but should not have declared the China Times a persona non grata to his party.He announced at the end of last year no China Times reporters would be allowed to cover the governing party.That is an encroachment on freedom of the press.
It is perfectly all right for Yu to refuse to talk to reporters of the China Times or any other media for that matter, if he thinks or suspects they may jeopardize his reputation or privacy.But he cannot deny them access to the party, which is a private group accepting the taxpayers' money as subsidy from the government.The subsidy totals NT$170 million a year.Other political parties are similarly subsidized.That makes all of them institutions like government agencies that are open to all media for coverage.A boycott against any one of the media violates press freedom.
The DPP chairman doesn't seem to understand what freedom of the press is.Otherwise he wouldn't have singled out the China Times as a mouthpiece of his Kuomintang counterpart Ma Ying-jeou and called on the public not to read it.He also urged the people to read DPP papers alone, though he didn't identify them.
We wish to call on Mr. Yu to call off his boycott against the China Times.We are sorry to say that is the only thing we can do.The respected local vernacular paper has few alternatives but to persuade him to have a change of mind.We do not want it to go all the way to the Council of Grand Justices to force him to lift the unwarranted, retaliatory boycott in violation of press freedom.