Fri, Jan 25, 2013 - Page 1 News List

Ministry in hot water for backing police privacy bid

By Huang Dun-yen and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

The Taiwan Association for Human Rights yesterday lodged a protest with the National Police Administration (NPA) and the Ministry of Justice over a notice recently issued by the ministry stating that police officers are entitled to their privacy and therefore members of the public must obtain their consent before filming them.

The statement stemmed from an incident in September last year in which two college students were stopped by police in Greater Kaohisung and given tickets for driving illegally modified scooters.

Throughout the incident, the students were filming the officers and when they ignored the police’s warning that the students had to obtain their consent before filming them, they were brought to a police station and served notices for obstructing the officers from performing their duty.

The incident caused a public outcry, which prompted Greater Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) to issue a statement calling on the police to respect the rights of the public and know which could not be crossed in the line of duty.

NPA official Huang Kuo-chen (黃國珍) yesterday said that under the principle of investigative confidentiality, citizens who are filing complaints or are under investigation at any police station are not allowed to conduct any form of evidence-gathering, such as filming.

However, if the citizen is in a public space and their evidence-gathering does not obstruct police from performing their duty, then no rule forbids them to do so.

Huang’s comments met with jeers from the protesters, who asked him to elaborate on the exact definition of “obstruction of duty.”

Taiwan Association for Human Rights convener Lai Chung-chiang (賴中強) called the notice absurd.

“Citizens’ rights are most vulnerable when a the police are performing their duties, so if the public is unable to gather evidence against potential malfeasance, how can they protect themselves?” Lai said.

The association also gave the NPA a black stocking as a symbolic “gift,” saying that officers should wear them over their heads while on duty “to protect their privacy.”

Deputy Minister of Justice Chen Shou-huang (陳守煌) said claiming that police have a right to privacy while on duty in public areas was unreasonable, adding that the ministry would look into the issue.

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