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Reporters deny colluding with Education Ministry break-in students

Reporters deny colluding with Education Ministry break-in students

Taipei, July 29 (CNA) Three reporters involved in a July 23 incident that saw protesters -- mostly students -- breaking into the Ministry of Education (MOE) compound, defended themselves Wednesday and said they did not collude with the activists.
Their move to follow the activists into the building was aimed purely at covering the event, Liberty Times photographer Liao Chen-hui told the press at Taipei City Hall.
"The story was there," Liao said, adding that the reporters would not have been able to cover the event if they had not entered the building.
"It will be a problem if the prosecutors, police and the MOE mix the rights and obligations of reporters with those of the students," Liao argued.
Liao and the other two journalists -- Coolloud Collective reporter Sung Hsiao-hai and freelance reporter Lin Yu-yu -- were among 33 people arrested when police raided the MOE building at around midnight July 23 after receiving a report of a break-in.
After being questioned by prosecutors, the three reporters were released without bail July 24 but were restricted from leaving their home cities.
The arrests triggered criticism among the public that the freedom of the press had been infringed upon by the authorities.
Apparently subdued by the outcry, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je issued an apology that day over the infringement on press freedom, which he said is protected by the Republic of China Constitution.
Ko then promised to ask the police to review, along with media representatives, the city's standard operating procedures in handling news reporting during protests.
The three reporters were invited by the Taipei city government to a meeting Wednesday at City Hall with Deputy Mayor Teng Chia-ji, Taipei City Police Department Commissioner Chiu Feng-kuang, the police officers who made the arrests, and other city officials.
The meeting was held to review the police handling of the anti-curriculum guideline protesters after they had broken into the MOE compound and the police's ensuing arrests.
Before entering the meeting, Liao told the press that he and the other two were not in league with the student protesters, reiterating that they entered the MOE building only in order to cover the story.
More than 200 people, mostly high school students, began the protest outside the MOE July 22 against a series of revisions to history curriculum guidelines, which activists and academics say are Sino-centric and were carried out with a lack of transparency.
In a Taipei City Police Department report released July 28 of its review of the law enforcement process during the July 23 break-in, the police cited the security guards at the MOE compound as saying that the protesters ignored their instructions to stop, with some storming into the building from the front gate and some breaking in by damaging the back door.
The activists not only vandalized tables, chairs and computer cables in the building but also seized the office of the education minister and blocked the door to his office with a table and chairs to prevent the security guards from entering, the report said.
All the intruders and vandals were arrested on the spot on charges of violating the Criminal Code by entering a dwelling house or structure of another without reason and causing vandalism, according to the report.
Explaining the legitimacy of arresting the three reporters, the city police said that after confirming the MOE will press charges against the intruders, they asked the reporters if they had permission from the MOE to enter the building.
And the three journalists all replied they had not been given consent but climbed over the wall along with the protesters to gain entry to the building, the police said.
The city police said in the review report that the evidence that the reporters' behavior violated the law is clear and definite.
The Association of Taiwan Journalists, however, has condemned the arrests of the journalists as a violation of press freedom, and said it will assist them if they want to take legal action.
Commenting on the issue, S.C. Chang, a former instructor in press ethics at National Cheng Kung University, said the rights of journalists should not be magnified to the degree of allowing them to acquire news material using "illegal means."
To cover a break-in, "is it right that reporters can follow in the footsteps of intruders into someone else's house?" Chang asked. (By Ku Chuan, Huang Chun-yen and Elizabeth Hsu)


Updated : 2021-09-18 00:13 GMT+08:00