Free speech has many forms
The Ministry of Culture has banned the public exhibition of a film poster because it looks horrible and may scare children (“Film poster ban decision challenged,” July 19, page 5).
Movie posters are considered speech for the purposes of commerce and are protected by the Constitution. Freedom of speech shall not be restricted unless in certain circumstances set forth in the Constitution. Restricting freedom of speech has clear standards set by law or by regulations promulgated under the law, and the restriction must be appropriate in the given context.
The Ministry of Culture cited the provisions of the Motion Picture Act (電影法) and “related laws and regulations” as its legal basis for banning the poster. The act requires advertisement materials to be submitted for review and approval before they are used.
However, the same law does not provide the standards of review. In the Enforcement Rules of the Motion Picture Act, only one provision sets forth the standards for advertisement materials, which stipulates that they must correspond to the movie classification category for “general audiences.” Motion picture classification is further governed by the Regulations Governing the Classification of Motion Pictures. Whether the provision of the Enforcement Rules exceeds the authority of the Motion Picture Act and thereby makes the restriction unconstitutional can be left to the courts.
Assuming that classification of motion pictures and advance review of advertisement materials serve legitimate purposes, when applying the movie classification to advertisement materials, the competent authority should be cautious not to overly restrict the freedom of speech.
Advertisement materials are not the same as the motion picture itself, as they are often without a complete sequence of events, audio and visual effects, etc — particularly those in a still form taken out of context, such as a poster. Advertising tools by their very nature must reflect some content of the motion picture; otherwise it fails to fulfill its promotional function and could even be construed as false advertisement.
As long as the motion picture itself is properly classified, the competent authority has done its job to protect those intended to be protected by such a system. As for the advertisement medium, unless it is indisputably unsuitable for a “general audience,” as long as there is room for interpretation, the competent authority should apply a more lenient standard.
Finally, the purpose of establishing the Ministry of Culture, as stipulated in its Organization Act (組織法), is to promote the development of culture, which inherently includes encouraging cultural diversity, rather than to assume the role of people’s guardian. People can protect themselves from advertisement materials they dislike, and parents can protect their kids from content they disapprove of. As for the youngsters in need of, but lacking, “protection,” it is not the duty of the Ministry of Culture to provide this function. The ministry is evidently misunderstanding its role.
The Taipei Times is correct to urge President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to go beyond lip service to protect human rights (Editorial, July 19, page 8).
However, the editorial failed to acknowledge several misdeeds of the Ma administration regarding human rights.