Taiwan paper tries to stop police searches

AP, The Straits Times, 9 October 2000

The China Times Express published transcripts of a police interrogation, and this led to a search of the newsroom and two reporters' homes.

TAIPEI—A leading Taiwanese newspaper group filed an injunction to stop investigators from searching the daily's newsrooms and reporters' homes for evidence involving a former intelligence official accused in a money-laundering case.

Press freedom is an extremely sensitive issue in Taiwan, which, like other Asian nations, recently ended a long era of official ambivalence on the media's role.

The raid on the China Times Express newsroom and two journalists' residences last Tuesday has sparked protests by reporters and angry editorials in competing papers.

The afternoon daily belongs to the China Times Group, which on Saturday filed an appeal in Taipei District Court, requesting that the district attorney's office stop searching its newsrooms and reporters' homes.

The district attorney's office could not be reached yesterday because it was closed for the weekend.

Investigators raided the paper three days after it published the partial transcript from a police interrogation of Liu Guen-jun, a member of the National Security Bureau accused in a money-laundering case.

The bureau is an intelligence agency that advises the president.

The newspaper group said in a statement that investigators' assertions that the paper had jeopardised national security with its report were without merit and totally baseless.

The company complained that the three searches were done without warrants and without advance notice to the courts.

After an exhaustive search at China Times Express newsrooms, where the entire editorial staff was prevented from moving about and working for over an hour, prosecutors only took away some news logs as evidence, the media company said.

The newspaper group urged investigators not to regress to the martial law days of trampling on journalist freedoms accorded by the constitution.

Decades of martial law in Taiwan ended in 1987.