His Excellency Chen Shui-bian
President, Republic of China
Office of the President
122 Chung-King South Road--Section 1
Republic of China
Via facsimile: 886-2-2311-1604
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemns today's raid on the weekly Taiwan Next magazine, which government authorities have accused of endangering national security.
The March 21 edition of the magazine featured a lengthy cover story titled "Lee Teng-hui Illegally Used 3.5 Billion Taiwan Dollars." The report revealed the existence of secret bank accounts that former president Lee's Kuomintang government allegedly used to fund espionage on mainland China and to pay various countries to maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan, according to local and international press reports.
On March 20, investigators searched the Taipei offices of the magazine, its printing plant outside the city, and the home of Hsieh Chung-liang, the journalist who wrote the article.
Police confiscated about 160,000 copies of the issue, according to sources at Apple Daily, a Hong Kong-based sister publication of Taiwan Next. Despite the raid, copies of the magazine were available on newsstands this evening, according to news reports.
The National Security Bureau (NSB) issued a statement declaring that officials had carried out the raid and confiscation in order to "protect national security and interests, and to protect the interests and safety of our international friends and relevant officials."
In response, Taiwan Next executive editor Pei Wei told reporters that the public had a right to know about the secret accounts. "The two secret funds have nothing to do with national secrets, so the search is a violation of press freedom," Pei Wei said.
Taiwan Next, a popular tabloid-style news magazine, is published by Next Media Ltd., owned by Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai.
As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of our colleagues worldwide, CPJ is deeply concerned about the government's apparent attempt to censor Taiwan Next. It is particularly disturbing that the magazine has been accused of "endangering national security" for reporting on the use of government funds, a topic of legitimate public concern.
We respectfully ask Your Excellency to guarantee that your administration will not use national security concerns as a pretext to censor reporting. CPJ considers this an important press freedom issue that has serious implications for the health of Taiwanese democracy.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We await your response.