President Chen vows to balance freedom and national security
The China Post staffPresident Chen Shui-bian yesterday said neither national security nor freedom of the press should be given unlimited supremacy.
March 26, 2002, 12:00 am TWN
“There is no absolute contradiction and confrontation between national security and press freedom,” said Chen during a meeting with military leaders.
“National security is the key to a nation’s survival, and freedom of the press is the foundation of democratic reform. Neither of them can be ignored,” he said.
The president was obviously trying to allay fears of government persecution of the press following the crackdown on Next Magazine, which was been accused of compromising national security last week.
The government has been deeply embarrassed by the weekly tabloid’s scandalizing reports on the National Security Bureau’s secret funds being used by Taiwan for dollar diplomacy.
“No one should be allowed to use national security as an excuse to kill the growth democracy, or even use the banner of national security as an excuse to hamper freedom of the press,” said Chen.
He demanded the investigators “carefully review” how they handle such “crises.”
Reiterating his personal conviction that the country should be founded on the universal values of human rights, freedom and democracy, he nevertheless asked the press to exercise self-discipline in their monitoring of society.
Without naming Next Magazine in particular throughout his speech, Chen said “from the recent incident we must have learned that national security and press freedom must co-exist and rely on each other.”
He also tried to boost the morale of the military and the intelligence bodies, both of whom have received bad publicity in the Next incident.
“All the national security units, the armed forces, and unsung heroes of the intelligence bodies should receive high regards from the people for their sacrifices,” said Chen.
“The corruption acts committed by a few individuals should not harm the entire forces’ honor and contribution, and should not be shaking the morale of the forces,” said Chen.
Chen was apparently referring to Colonel Liu Kuan-chun, the NSB’s chief cashier in charge of the intelligence body’s NT$3.6 billion secret funds. He has fled Taiwan after allegedly swindling millions out of the funds.
Chen also revealed that he had already ordered the dubious NSB funds be returned to the national coffers.
The president also promised to reform the intelligence networks, tightening scrutiny of the operations and expenses.
Earlier, Chen also paid a goodwill visit to Yu Chi-chung, publisher of the China Times, a newspaper also accused of the compromising national security for making similar revelations as the Next reports.
The contents of their talks were not revealed, but the Presidential Office said the meeting had been arranged before the Next crackdown, and had nothing to do with it.
Meanwhile, the opposition Kuomintang, despite lauding Chen for his speech, asked the president to put it into practice freeing the nation from the “green terror.” Green is the color of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party.
KMT spokesman Wu Ching-chi said they hope the DPP government will not abuse its authority, sending the people fearing for the loss of press freedom.
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Earlier, another KMT spokeswoman, Kuo Shu-chun, said it was already too late for President Chen to vow the protection for freedom of speech.
The raid on Next Magazine has already harmed beyond repair the country’s reputation as a democracy, as the government has come under severe criticisms from home and abroad, she said.
She said the KMT thinks that the matter should be focused on whether President Chen has also used the NSB’s secret funds, and whether he has allowed the intelligence body to launch any illegal operations against any individual or institution.