Saturday, March 25, 2006

Media and Policing in Taiwan

The recent case of a railway worker accused of murdering his Vietnamese wife by staging a train derailment has highlighted the serious problem of the incestuous relationship between the police, prosecutors, and the media in Taiwan.

The investigation was turned over to the Kaohsiung District Prosecutors Office, effective yesterday, said Lee Jing-yong, deputy justice minister. The decision was later confirmed by Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) during a legislative interpellation session.

Justice Minister Morley Shih also said the Pingtung office will be penalized for their misconduct. The details of the disciplinary action will be decided in the next two days, he noted.

The prosecutors on Thursday portrayed Lee as debt ridden, saying he had lost over NT$30 million on the stock market. They implied that Lee may have planned last Saturday's derailment to kill his Vietnamese wife Chen Shi Hong-sheng in order to collect NT$20 million in insurance.

However, the debt allegation was completely overturned when the securities company said not only did Lee not lose money, but he had made over NT$100,000 from his investments.

To set the record straight, Chung Ji-mei, a vice president of Grand Cathay Securities Corporation said the company indeed provided prosecutors with Lee's transaction history and did not understand how the law enforcement came up with such a figure.

Chuang Rong-song, spokesperson for the Pingtung prosecution office, admitted to the miscalculation and expressed regrets to Lee's family.

Around 6 o'clock Thursday morning, Lee's body was found hanging from a tree near his house. In his three suicide notes, Lee said that he was innocent of the suspicions leveled at him and accused the prosecution and media of driving him to his grave.

It seems almost pointless to call for reform of Taiwan's hopeless media, and its hopeless attitude toward it. One reason I hate watching TV news -- on in every restaurant in the nation -- is that I don't want to see people in emergency rooms, people suffering and crying horribly, people bleeding, people out of their wits -- it's like a pornography of pain. No one should have to suffer the intrusion of the media into their private lives like that. How many more lives will these locusts destroy?

Not only does such behavior degrade all it touches, it also threatens the whole idea of democracy on Taiwan in two important ways. First, the media's role is to function as a watchdog, to hold the government accountable. Obviously it cannot fufill that role if it does not take such a role seriously. Second, by behaving like animals, the media invites attempts to control it and rein it in. Both are problematic for the development of a robust democracy on Taiwan.


STOP_George said...

Which do you think is worse, Michael?

The biased irresponsibly sensationalist media in Taiwan that threatens democracy -- but is blatantly obvious in it's bias?

Or the government friendly factually irresponsible and internationally clueless American media -- which is more sophisticated in its "badness" (and also threatens democracy)?

I would say the American media because of the scope of the consequences, I guess.

Samuel said...

Those people need Jesus' love. Peace

Michael Turton said...

Samuel, Jesus is dead, and he ain't coming back. Get on with your life.

STOP_george, I'll take the US media on that one.


Anonymous said...

A law/rule was past last week to keep the media out of the airport. Step1. Now they need to work on Step2, the hospitals. Its depressing to see all the violence and injury/death on TV 24 hours a day, mostly due to accidents, stupidity or gangsters.

I think another problem is that there are too many journalism students in the universities and not enough jobs when they graduate. (plus many do not want to be journalists, but that is the university slot they got dealt. It seem like many of them have zero social skills to understand when and when not to intrude in other peoples lives.


cleverCLAIRE said...

A friend of mine whose sister committed suicide. The rotten Apple Daily reporter showed up at the door and demanded: "Open the door. we want to take some shots of the body."

I am not joking. This is a first hand story from a friend.

He was the one who answered the door and responded: "Fxxk yours." (The Taiwanese equivalant of that expression.)

Maybe there oughta be a law/article to keep the media out of the mourning families' faces.

Michael Turton said...

Sheesh! All too common, though.

nostalgiphile said...

Yes, that's an accurate description of the nightly news here, unfortunately. I've always been pissed off to see the cops leading reporters to the mangled bodies and generally assisting the media in whatever way they can to make the news as circus-like as possible.

If you see a scuffle break out, the first guy to take one on the chin is definitely gonna be the policeman. They will never use force to restrain even the wildest lunatics, probably because they know they're on TV...I mean, these Taiwanese cops, they're just hao ke-ai lou. Big lazy teddy bears in blue...

Anonymous said...

Wait, but you do realize that the police suspect that the husband and wife have been on all 3 recent derailments right?

Like, isn't that insane that they just happen to be on the train all those times the train derailed?

Michael Turton said...

Yeah.....unless she rode it daily. If it is really a true fact...

but the key here is that the media should not have had access to a suspect's name and location. For reasons ranging from the flight risk to public safety to the personal safety of the suspect to privacy.


A guy from Taiwan said...

Yeah, everybody is complaining and blaming the media, but s/he who keeps complaining also keeps watching it. I don't blame media, they just present what audiance wants, and I'm quite happy about the current status. It is the audiance who are affecting the media, not people in control of media try to influence public opinion by biased report. It happens only in politics in taiwan, but it happens in every aspect on US media.